News & Politics

Fans at Nationals Park Encountered the New Backpack Lockers, and WE WERE THERE

“I was completely new to it." "They were big enough to store my bike helmet." "The most asinine thing I’ve seen in my entire life.”

All photographs by Will Peischel.

Opening Day at Nationals Park marked the rollout of the team’s new bag policy, which is to say, you can’t bring in most backpacks. That’s right, freeloaders, your rosy days of heading to a ballgame with objects larger than 16”x16”x8” gratis are over. For those who are willing to shell out $2 an hour, Nationals Park offers an alternative: lockers.

Last month the Nats tapped Binbox, a startup that specializes in locker storage at sporting events, to provide the storage at the right and center field entrances. Waves of excitement among those in line, mostly people who hadn’t heard of the policy change, weren’t palpable.

“I think it’s the most asinine thing I’ve seen in my entire life,” says Grant Miller, a New Yorker who’d travelled to DC for March Madness and decided to fill a free afternoon with a Mets game. “I walk around with DC with a backpack all day long without a problem. Here, I’m treated like a criminal.”

Even non-New Yorkers were frustrated. Tom Davenport, a retired Virginian, spent almost ten minutes navigating the Binbox interface, which involves a phone application download and cashless money exchange.

“I was completely new to it,” he says. “I’m almost 80, so I haven’t been to a ballgame in a long time. The brightness on my phone was too low.”

Davenport showed me his phone. He was right, his phone brightness was low.

Other attendees, like retiree Kathryn Zeiders, say they were caught off-guard by the policy change and called the process a hassle.

The founder and CEO of Binbox, Dan Flynn, says he hopes his locker banks will come to be seen as a convenience for people who don’t have time to drop off their extra stuff at home. He also emphasized that his company didn’t enter the picture until after the Nationals changed their bag policy. In fact, Binbox had to adjust an order it had already made to meet the opening game deadline. Flynn hopes to eventually use lockers made from powdered steel. But those take up to 14 weeks to manufacture.

“We provide something so people can still go to the game,” he said. “Even if they’re coming from work.”

Binbox wasn’t a pain in every case. Rachel Patterson, a United Nations Foundation employee who took the day off and arrived via bikeshare, expressed disdain for the Nationals’ bag policy. However, she kind of liked the lockers.

“The lockers are nice because they were big enough to store my bike helmet,” she says. “Without the lockers, I would’ve ridden without one.”

Editorial Fellow