A new tater tot and chicken wing stand, an ice cream sandwich and cookie push-pop cart and improved WiFi are among the biggest changes coming to Nationals Park for the 2017 season. During Tuesday’s annual ballpark tour for media members ahead of Opening Day, the Nationals also showed off new signage adjacent to the center field scoreboard, a new Devils Backbone-themed bar near Section 301 and premium field-level seats beyond the first-base dugout.
“See. You. Tater.” — the tater tot and chicken wing stand inspired by MASN play-by-play man Bob Carpenter’s home run call — will take the place of Shawafel near Section 106. The stand will offer several varieties of chicken wings, including Buffalo, Sweet & Spicy BBQ, Lemon Garlic Butter, Old Bay and Mango Caribbean Jerk. Tater tot options include Backyard BBQ (BBQ sauce, mac ‘n cheese, pulled pork and fried onions), Chesapeake Bay (crab queso and crab meat), Buffalo (Buffalo chicken, slaw and blue cheese) and Intentional Wok (pork belly, pickled cucumbers and onions). Shawafel is the only major concession stand from last season that isn’t returning for 2017.
Ice cream sandwiches from On Rye, which were previously only available in the Norfolk Southern Club, will be available in Section 114 this year. The Nats Park outpost of the D.C. sandwich shop will also offer two ice cream push-pops (Black & White cookie and Bourbon & Cinnamon Babka).
Other new concession items for 2017 include an Italian sausage burger available at the Grand Slam Grill (Sections 110 and 141) and Georgetown Grill (Section 129), Thai chicken skewers over jasmine rice at Change-Up Chicken stands throughout the park and a chicken fried steak biscuit at Virginia Country Kitchen stands in Sections 130 and 315. The new menu in the Budweiser BrewHouse will include chicken and waffles, Kung Pao Brussels sprouts and steamed pork buns.
Beverage-wise, there will be eight District Draft stands — one more than last season — offering a rotating selection of beers from Port City, Atlas, Mad Fox, 3 Stars, D.C. Brau and Old Ox this season. The Nationals are also introducing a “guest tap series” at two of its District Draft carts — one on the main concourse and one on the upper concourse — for every homestand. Fair Winds Brewing Co. of Lorton will kick things off on Opening Day, while D.C.’s Right Proper brewing will be featured during the second homestand. A Nationals spokesman said beer prices, which were unchanged from 2015 to 2016, will be up “slightly” this season.
The Devils Backbone Brewing Company Left Field Lodge will offer a rotating selection of Devils Backbone beers, including the new Earned Run Ale, a session pale ale available exclusively at Nationals Park. A cart called “Rum Runners” will offer mojito cocktails in Center Field Plaza, while “Distillers of the DMV” stands in Sections 112 and 135 will feature a rotating selection of classic cocktails from distilleries in D.C., Maryland and Virginia.
The popular pregame happy hour special at the Budweiser Terrace beyond the center field scoreboard is back, with beers for $5 up until 30 minutes before first pitch. Outside of the MGM National Harbor Dugout Club and Devils Backbone bar, the most obvious cosmetic change to the park is the “Nationals/Swing Big” wooden signage erected in the standing room only section between the bar beneath the scoreboard and the Bud Light Loft. (The panels appeared in renderings when the Nationals announced their new beer partnership with Anheuser-Busch before last season.)
The Nationals also unveiled their renovated team store in the Center Field Plaza, which features a revamped kids’ section. In addition to jersey customization, the team will offer cap customization in the New Era Store in Section 132 for the first time. Other merchandise-related changes for this season include a maternity line and an expanded selection of plus-size clothing.
The team reports it “nearly doubled the number of WiFi access points” throughout Nationals Park during the offseason. A new Nationals app, created in partnership with MLB, will launch on Opening Day and enable fans to purchase and share tickets, order concessions for express pickup at select stands and take part in various in-game promotions and activities.