By Daniel LeDuc
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 5, 2008
The Washington Nationals announced yesterday that parking spaces will be available for the first time to fans who have not bought season tickets. They will be sold for all games, beginning with the start of the next homestand Monday.
Parking is at a premium in the Southeast neighborhood around the new ballpark, and team executives and city officials still encourage the use of public transportation. But Sunday's home opener went so smoothly that the Nationals decided to open up parking for single-game ticket buyers.
After scrambling for months, the Nationals acquired nearly 5,000 parking spaces near the ballpark. Officials said that turned out to be more than was needed for season ticket holders, who had been the only fans able to buy parking from the team near the stadium.
Fans now will be able to purchase parking on a game-by-game basis. It will be first come, first served, and spaces must be purchased in advance online at http://www.nationals.com/waytogo. Parking slots will not be sold at the ballpark.
The announcement came as the team and D.C. officials prepared for the first weeknight game at Nationals Park at 7:10 Monday against the Florida Marlins. Fans will be streaming into the area during rush hour, presenting a new test of traffic flow in the neighborhood.
Leaving the District, many commuters jam South Capitol Street, which runs along the west side of the ballpark, and M Street, just north of the stadium, where team courtesy buses shuttle fans who park for free at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium.
Many workers, including those at the new U.S. Department of Transportation building on M Street, will be filling Metro trains.
Transit officials and team executives said they are optimistic that the crowds can be accommodated. They said they expect many fans who live in the city to choose Metro and noted that those driving in from the suburbs will be going against rush-hour traffic.
"The plan worked really well on opening weekend," said Karyn LeBlanc, spokeswoman for the District Department of Transportation.
City planners are fine-tuning where to place traffic operations officers. As for the new Nationals parking, LeBlanc said, "we'll have to wait and see how many people take advantage of it."
Parking will cost $40 for spaces closest to the ballpark. The price drops to $20 for Lot W, on M Street across the street from the Navy Yard, and $15 for Lot HH, north of the ballpark on South Capitol near Interstate 295.
The lots are marked with large signs, and directions to them are on the team's Web site.
Metro announced yesterday that it was planning on normal rush-hour service until game time Monday. Officials reminded fans that they can use both exits at the Navy Yard station to reach the ballpark. The combined exits allow 20,000 passengers per hour to pass, Metro says.
Metro personnel will be on hand at Gallery Place-Chinatown, L'Enfant Plaza and the Navy Yard to help game-goers. Nationals commemorative SmarTrip cards will be sold at the Navy Yard for $5. Riders will have to add fare to the cards.
After the game, Metro will operate up to 10 extra trains on the Green Line, four extra trains on the Red Line and five extra trains on the Orange and Blue lines.
The N22 bus from the Navy Yard to Eastern Market and Union Station will run every 10 minutes until 10:30 p.m.
The Nationals also have been evaluating how to improve the fan experience in the ballpark. Opening weekend was successful, but lines at concession stands were long, prompting some grumbling.
Team President Stan Kasten said work was under way to shorten lines but declined to offer specifics.
"We're going to continue to work to improve all things," he said.
Staff writer Lena H. Sun contributed to this report.