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Team, Transit Officials Pleased With Performance

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By Daniel LeDuc and Lena H. Sun
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Thrilled with the Washington Nationals' dramatic victory in Sunday night's home opener at the District's new ballpark, city officials and team executives focused yesterday on action off the field and promised some fine-tuning.

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Traffic flowed smoothly outside the stadium, despite concerns about potential gridlock. Inside the ballpark, however, fans ran into congestion at concession areas. In some cases, innings stretched by while people waited in lines for hot dogs. Some popular items sold out.

The Nats began a road trip after playing in the home opener and an exhibition game Saturday night. They begin their first extended homestand Monday with a 7:10 p.m. game against the Florida Marlins. That will be the first test of the ballpark on a weekday, with fans competing with rush-hour travelers.

That "is in some ways a whole nother animal," said Gregory McCarthy, a Nationals executive working on the ballpark.

The team and city officials will spend this week evaluating operations. But they said they do not expect significant changes, given the success of the weekend opening. Concessions will get extra attention, however.

"Lines were a concern for us. They're not necessarily where we want them to be. We expect it to better by Monday," said the team president, Stan Kasten. "Once a problem happens, it doesn't happen again."

Kasten said the shortages were the result of some stands not being replenished quickly enough.

The Nationals made adjustments throughout the weekend and will continue to do so, Kasten said.

Outside the ballpark, changes were evident between Saturday night's exhibition game against the Baltimore Orioles and Sunday's official opener against the Atlanta Braves.

"Team ambassadors" were more spread out through the neighborhood to direct fans along the best sidewalk routes. And the courtesy shuttle between the free parking lot at RFK Stadium had additional pickup points after Sunday's game.

The free "Nats Express" was popular, with fans filling up Lot 8 at RFK and overflowing into an adjacent lot.

Sunday's game was a sellout, with about 41,000 people on hand. Combining that with the newness of the ballpark, the lines for virtually everything from food to parking to Metro to the shuttles were probably the longest they will be.

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