Opening Day for the Washington Nationals 2022 season is Thursday, April 7, as the Nats face off against the New York Mets at 4:05 PM. The park is back to its 41,000-person capacity following Covid caps last year. Things look a little different than the previous season—not just on the field—as the Nationals organization has worked to enhance the park experience through new offerings and advanced tech services. Here’s what to expect.
Speedier Entry Into the Park
Lines may be shorter and move faster this season with the introduction of a new security screening system that lets fans enter without having to remove keys, wallets, and other “non-threat” items (it’s been embraced by the NFL and others for years).
As part of the new system, all bags larger than a clutch must be clear—plastic, vinyl, PVC (we’re calling it now: Ziploc freezer bags will be the fashion trend of the ’22 Nats season). The limit for bag size remains 16 x 16 x 8 inches. Lockers still exist outside the park for storing items. And ladies, if you’re worried about putting your tampons on display, the Nats are now providing free feminine hygiene products in all bathrooms.
Sports betting is on the rise around DC, and the Nationals have partnered with BetMGM to open the first sportsbook at a MLB stadium. It opened for daily service (11 AM to midnight) in January. The swanky 4,000 square-foot space near the main entrance boasts 40 TVs, a bar, food service from 3 to 9 PM, and multiple betting windows and kiosks. While fans can’t go to and from the stadium and sportsbook during games, a new app allows users to place mobile wagers within a two-block radius of the park.
Fresh Food Options
As always, the Nationals have partnered with an exciting roster of local chefs and restaurateurs to promote local businesses and bring exciting flavors to the park. New to the culinary lineup for 2022 is Roaming Rooster, DC’s smash hit fried chicken sandwich purveyor that’ll offer its hot, Nashville hot, and honey butter chicken sandwiches (Section 238). A Washington classic is also making a comeback to the park after a hiatus: Hard Times Café, which opened in Old Town Alexandria in 1980. It’ll be located in Section 105 with all things chili (vegetarian and meaty)—chili dogs, cups, fries, loaded nachos, and more. Duke’s Grocery, a spinoff of the Dupont Circle and Foggy Bottom gastropub, is now located in the revamped FIS Champions Club, and will be dishing up their signature burgers, tenders, and mac’n’cheese to season ticket holders.
Also returning are some fresh local food vendors you might have missed last season. We’re excited to see mammoth Grazie Grazie subs from Taylor Gourmet founder Casey Patten’s Wharf sandwich shop (Section 114), and local ice cream from South Mountain Creamery. One newcomer from 2021 who isn’t making a comeback is Fuku, Momofuku restaurateur David Chang’s fried chicken sandwich stall.
Tasty Cocktails and More Local Brews
On the drinking end, local beer supplier District Drafts continues its expansion within Nationals Park—now with 13 locations. For the 2022 season fans will find beers from 3 Stars, Atlas, DC Brau, Denizens, Fair Winds, Hellbender, Other Half, Old Ox, Port City, Solace, Right Proper, and City State.
Cocktail fans will find new creations from Tory Pratt, the creator of a local line of cocktail syrups, Pratt Standard Cocktail Co. Pratt will have two specialty batched cocktails wherever liquor is sold, though they can also be made non-alcoholic. One is a Cherry Blossom Cocktail to match the Nationals’ new uniforms, made with vodka and a Cherry Blossom Syrup fashioned from sour cherry juice, rose petal essence, and green tea. The other is a cranberry-orange crush.
Online Ordering and Enhanced Technology
The Nationals are embracing technological advances to drive the fan experience in a bunch of new ways.
In the pandemic, the park adopted a cashless policy for parking, ticketing, retail, and concessions (and installed kiosks where fans can exchange paper money for eCash).
They also launched the MLB Ballpark App, which allows fans to purchase and manage tickets, upgrade seats on the fly, and buy/order food, drinks, and merchandise. For food and drink, mobile pre-ordering helps cut down time waiting in concession lines. Items can be picked up at the concessions themselves, or at portable concession stands. The ballpark app can also help fans search for food by location or cuisine, and there’s a virtual assistant who can help answer any manner of questions.
The Nationals also launched a new partnership with cryptocurrency community Terra, and unveiled a new high-tier club space behind home plate, the Terra Club (previously the Nationals Club). Tickets (starting at $275) include all-inclusive food and drink, specialty chef’s tables, in-seat services, and more. In addition, Terra’s coin, UST, may start to be accepted in the park as early as next year.
Cool New Merch
Along with the Washington Wizards, the Nationals unveiled new cherry blossom-themed uniforms this season. The Nats will take the field in the gray, white, and pink pastel jerseys on April 9 and 10, as well as several more times over the course of the season. Fans can grab their own versions of the City Connect uniforms at the Team Store, or order them on the MLB Ballpark App, where they can even be delivered to the seats.