News & Politics

Big Changes at Nationals Park for 2021: What You Need to Know If You Want to Go

New ticket policies, no bags, limited cash, pod-style seating, and more.

Photograph by Evy Mages

Everything looks different for the Nationals home opener against the Mets on Thursday, April 1—and likely for the rest of the 2021 season, though regulations and conditions are constantly changing in the pandemic. Here’s what you need to know about ticket access, new policies that drastically limit cash and bags, mask mandates, and more.

Capacity is very limited—though that may change soon

Currently there are only 5,000 fans allowed in the stadium per the DC Government’s order—compare that to the regular capacity of 41,339. The Nats offered priority ticket access to “Nats Plus” members based on tenure and ticket package size. Representatives for the Nationals say discussions have “already begun with officials from the District about increasing capacity for the second homestand, which begins April 15.” Currently tickets are sold out for April games. Fans can buy them on secondary platforms like StubHub—but no surprise, they’re incredibly expensive.

Photograph by Evy Mages

Tickets are sold for pod-style seating (and they’re all digital)

In order to socially distance spectators, fans can only purchase tickets individually or in groups of up to six. They’re advised to buy only with their pod or family. These groups will be separated no less than six feet from others, and there’s a maximum of three pods per row. Seats that are unavailable for sale, or that go unsold, will be zip-tied to prevent spectators from moving and occupying them.

If there’s one theme that’s dominating the season so far, it’s eliminating contact. That starts with the physical tickets. The MLB Ballpark App, which you can download on phones and other devices, is the only form of ticket delivery and admission for the 2021 season (more info here). Box office windows won’t be open for sales. In order to promote social distancing and limit lines, specific gates—open two hours before first pitch—will be assigned with digital tickets. The gates are either closest to the assigned seat or an easy path.

Specific kinds of masks are required at (almost) all times

The Nats want to emphasize that it’s literally safety first for the season. First and foremost, anyone entering the stadium that’s over two must wear an approved style of mask at all times when not eating or drinking in their seat (KN95, N95, cloth, surgical/3-Ply, and face shields with a mask). Face coverings like bandanas and gaiters aren’t allowed, though the Nationals will provide disposable masks when needed. Anyone not wearing a mask will be given a verbal warning before being removed from the park.

Masks and temperature checks are also required for all employees entering the stadium. You can read more about the in-depth safety and cleaning procedures here.

Photograph by Evy Mages

Most bags are prohibited from the stadium 

The Nationals have put a lot of emphasis on eliminating contact points and sources of crowding around the stadium. That’s impacting their bag policy—or virtually no-bag policy—according to public safety vice president, Scott Fear. Only tiny clutch bags (5” x 7” x 3/4” or smaller), diaper bags, and ADA medical bags will be permitted. Fear says: “We want to eliminate contact points. When it comes to a bag, someone has to go through it. It can also cause a line. The less bags the come through, the less time it takes to get in, the fewer contact points. It’s strictly for the safety of our fans.” 

For those that come with bags, lockers are available around the main entrance—a then-controversial feature from the 2019 season—for a fee. Fans can still bring in single-serve food items, though they have to either fit in the bag—good luck with that clutch—or be carried by hand for easy screening.

There’s almost no cash allowed 

One of the biggest changes this season is that the stadium is going almost entirely cashless (the only place where cash is  accepted is for Nationals Philanthropies 5050 raffle tickets). Fans are advised to download the MLB Ballpark App (see above), which lets you access digital tickets and place mobile orders for concessions. For food and drink, you can scan a QR code at your seat or at a concession stand, tap the “mobile ordering” section in the app, pick your food/drink items, pay, and go grab the (now all covered) food and beverage containers.

That being said, if fans only enter the stadium with cash, they can exchange it for Nats Bucks* at various locations, including  guest services. Game-goers can also still order directly from concessions and purchase items using eCash, touchless systems such as Apple Pay, or a standard credit or debit card.

Grazie Grazie, one of the new concessions at the park. Photograph courtesy of the Nationals

There are a lot of fun new concessions

As always, the Nationals have partnered with several new food and drink businesses for the 2021 season. New options include smash hit sandwich shop Grazie Grazie, Petworth’s Taqueria Del Barrio, Venezuelan purveyor Arepa Zone, and David Chang’s spicy fried chicken sandwich chain Fuku.  You can see our guide to new eating and drinking options around Nationals Park here.

A lot of popular gathering spaces are closed, while clubs are open at limited capacity

Due to the limited capacity and the changing nature of the pandemic, some concessions may be closed for individual games based on attendance and demand. Because of their location at the stadium entrance, concessions Medium Rare, See You Tater, and Haute Dogs & Fries are temporarily shut.

Spots in the stadium where fans typically gathered outside their seats are also on hold. That includes the Budweiser Brew House, which won’t reopen for the 2021 season, the PenFed Kids Zone, and the Coca-Cola Social Lounge. Meanwhile the Ultra Loft and Swing Big Beer Pen will be closed until ballpark capacity is increased.

A family picnic area is open at 50 percent capacity with distanced tables. The popular Budweiser Terrace bar is also open, but it’s now designed to be a grab-and-go spot versus a place to linger—all of the furniture has been removed.

The PNC Diamond Club and Nationals Club (formerly the Delta Sky360 Club) are open, but operating at a reduced capacity following indoor dining regulations in the District.

*Correction: cash can be traded for Nats Bucks, not eCash. 

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.