News & Politics

5 New Things to Look for at Nationals Park This Season

Monday is opening day at Nationals Park. Photo by Benjamin Freed.

The Washington Nationals showed off several additions to their stadium and some of the promotions it will stage during the upcoming season on Tuesday, including new food vendors, rebranded bars, increased security measures, and at least one Frank Sinatra impersonator.

The most substantial change is most likely a new arrangement with AB InBev, which is now the team’s official beer partner, resulting in several areas of the stadium being rebranded. The Red Porch restaurant behind center field is now the Budweiser Brewhouse, the Samuel Adams Bar is now the Goose Island Pub, and there will now be a stand specializing in Lime-a-Ritas. Fans of locally made beer can drop their worries about a complete takeover by AB—the District Drafts stands, which serve locally produced brews, remain intact.

Other areas of the stadium, including the PNC Diamond Club, have been remodeled and expanded. Shake Shack has also nearly doubled in size, a response to customers’ demand for quicker service at the popular hamburger stand, which has four DC-area locations not inside a baseball stadium.

Here are five more things to look for at Nationals games this year:

New food vendors

During the off-season, the Nationals took pitches from local restaurants and food vendors and selected two: Pinch Dumplings, a Rockville-based company that sells handmade Chinese dumplings at Washington-area farmers’ markets and a full-service location in Baltimore, and Haute Dogs & Fries, purveyors of upscale tubed meats with restaurants in Alexandria and Purcellville. The namesake Haute dog—with tangy, brown onion relish, mayonnaise, and celery salt—will be a welcome alternative in a stadium diet dominated by dirty-water dogs.

On Rye, a deli opening this year in Chinatown, is also setting up at Nationals Park, with corned-beef and reuben sandwiches and chocolate-babka ice-cream sandwiches.

More Mike Isabella

Some of the Southern dishes at Mike Isabella's Catchfly.

The chef’s restaurant fiefdom, which already had a foothold at Nationals Park with an outpost of his G sandwich shop, is expanding with another iteration of his Greek restaurant, Kapnos, and a new concept, Catchfly, specializing in Southern cuisine. A Nashville hot chicken sandwich was not actually that hot, but popcorn-chicken bites were surprisingly warm and juicy.

Pups in the park—every night

Photograph via iStock.

Before the 2015 season, Major League Baseball mandated that every stadium install metal detectors. They’re still there this year, but baseball isn’t done tweaking its security posture. This year will see the introduction of K-9 units screening the gates at every game, which Frank Gambino, the Nationals’ vice president for ballpark operations, attributes to a recommendation from the commissioner’s office.

Theme nights

Frank Sinatra impersonator

The Nationals are once again doing a Star Wars Day, scheduled for August 13 (May 4 is an away game), that will feature Racing Presidents dressed in costume, and player photos on the scoreboard accompanied by various characters. (Jayson Werth gets Chewbacca, appropriately.) A team officials says that while the focus will be on the original trilogy, there will be some elements of The Force Awakens incorporated into the promotion.

One of the brand-new theme nights is “Rat Pack Night,” which the team says was added at the behest of some of the players, especially Bryce Harper, who sometimes uses Frank Sinatra’s recording of “The Best Is Yet to Come” as his walk-up music. A Sinatra impersonator was on hand to serenade reporters; a stadium full of baseball fans on July 2 will presumably be a less jaded audience.

A thing for millennials

Budweiser Terrace

Under the Nationals’ deal with AB InBev, the bar once known as the Miller Lite Scoreboard Walk is now the Budweiser Terrace. While only functional difference is that it will stop serving MillerCoors products in favor of Budweiser, Bud Light, Shock Top, Goose Island, and other AB product, a team spokesperson also described it as a “gathering place for millennials.” The line attracted the typical level of bemusement seen whenever a thing is pitched toward people younger than 36 years old:

The above tweets all come from people who, apparently, have never touched a Bud Heavy at a sporting event. Well done, fellow kids.

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Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.