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With the Nats just a few days away from starting play at their stadium, it was time for the annual Nationals Park media tour for the ink-stained newspaper wretches (plus their cohorts, the blow-dried TV folks and the Cheetos-munching bloggers), to highlight what's new at the ballpark and what fans should know in trying to arrive for the first two games of 2010.
Knowing that there will be a number of news stories tonight listing all the changes, I concentrated more on taking photos, which you can see in this gallery. The splashiest change is the complete renovation of the PNC Diamond Club, which has exchanged its former sports bar/take me out to the ballgame motif for a much sleeker feel. (The new bar is pictured above.) They've also tweaked the Red Porch and Red Loft, adding two more rows of tables and chairs on the field side of the Porch while removing the seating on the balcony of the Loft and adding in drink rails.
The Scoreboard Walk now has lounge furniture (so you can pretend you're in South Beach rather than Near Southeast), and the "Party Nights" with music, $5 pre-game beers, games, and other entertainment will now be at all Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night games, with the gates opening 2 1/2 hours before first pitch. (It'll all be running on Opening Day, too.)
There's also all sorts of new food offerings, starting with the new "Triple Play Grill" next to Hard Times Cafe in the Center Field Plaza, offering shrimp po boy and crab cake sandwiches, and a "Florida Foot Long SeaDog," which is actually a cod sandwich. They've also reworked the "Taste of the Majors" offerings, creating five foot-long hot dogs for the National League East teams. A new outlet called Change Up Chicken, in Section 130, will have a chicken and waffle sandwich, along with other chicken specialties and waffle fries. The Dupont Deli in Section 227 will have a triple-decker grilled cheese sandwich on Texas Toast, along with grilled Italian, and turkey sandwiches. There's also going to be three Flippin' Pizza outlets (sections 115, 214, and 311), and a Healthy Plate Cart in Section 110. And, if I may say so, if you're lucky enough to happen upon the red velvet cupcakes (at the Red Porch), don't pass them up.
As for Opening Day, the team is of course very excited that President Obama will be throwing out the first pitch, but they are reminding fans that a presidential visit plus a sellout crowd will make for long lines to get in, which is why the gates will be opened at 10 am for a 1:05 pm start. (But if you're one of the first 20,000 fans who try to beat the rush, you'll get a replica batting practice hat.) And there was talk of the new parking options for 2010 (no more Nats Express and the new economy lots). Read my earlier entry today for more on that. But, if you're a season ticket holder, at least you'll have your own red-carpet line to stand in at the Center Field Gate--for all games after Opening Day.
Having *still* never really gotten warm again after the damp cold Opening Day of 2008, I have my fingers crossed that the weather on Saturday and Monday will be about what it was like today (warmer, actually). It almost felt like spring out there!
Check back for links to additional media coverage.
UPDATE: Here's stories from Fox5 and WJLA. (Though points deducted from WJLA for saying that one of the economy parking lots is at 6th and M *SW*. Sigh.)
UPDATE II: NBC 4, a slew of Tweets from MASN's Kristen Hudak, and Nats320.
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Pat says: (3/31/10 6:24 PM)
God, give me a break. It wasn't THAT cold last year. You women will complain about anything that's not above 65 degrees.


JD says: (3/31/10 6:27 PM)
TWO years ago! The first opening day at the new stadium! 40 and mist at gametime!

(and, believe me, I am not normally someone who complains about being cold)


Sophia Monster says: (3/31/10 6:30 PM)
Five-foot long hot dogs! Sign me up for one of those and the 2 lb. pretzel!


MJM says: (3/31/10 11:00 PM)
Also all that free parking around L St and K St / 1st St is gone. The signs are up indicating parking restrictions on game day!

The Nats are gonna make some fans a little bigger come Sep. Can't wait for 5 Apr (and 3 Apr)


Jay says: (4/1/10 7:12 AM)
Weather forecast looks great -- sunny high 70s.

With the First Tosser there (Selig too, but who cares, right??), the defending NL champs, those improvements in food and entertainment, and the somewhat improved team, this promises to be a great Opening Day.

Dang you, JD, I'm hungry now :-)


Jen says: (4/1/10 9:10 AM)
I'm super excited for Opening Day! And I will back JD up on how incredibly cold it was the night Nats Park opened.


rjm says: (4/1/10 9:14 AM)
LOL about the frigid (yes, it was frigid), I think you could even subtract up to another 10 degrees from the field temp the higher you sat in the stadium. I don't think my Dad has warmed up yet either. He was definitely suffering from the first stages of hypothermia and began to get delirious by the 8th inning, so we left the game early, only to miss one of the greatest finishes in Nats history.


Ray N Rockville says: (4/1/10 9:18 AM)
I had season tickets for 4 years. The 2008 pre-season game and opener were the first time I could ever remember leaving a game beforeit finished. Lets hope this spring wil be a warm spring to start a season that will be better than we've seen in the past,


JD says: (4/1/10 9:18 AM)
I was running on fumes anyway after the crazy run-up to getting the stadium opened, and I gave out by the 5th inning. (And was sick for at least a week afterward.) But at least we got home in plenty of time to see the finish on TV.


G St says: (4/1/10 9:57 AM)
Excellent post and pix from JD.

Our beloved (?) Nat's are picked to finish last (again), so there will be plenty of time to wander the stadium in search of good eats. (-:

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