A revamped play area for kids, alcoholic juice boxes for adults and a variety of new hot dogs for all ages are among the biggest changes at Nationals Park this coming season. During an annual ballpark tour for media members Monday, the team also sampled items from its new barbecue, skewer and pretzel stands and showed off a virtual-reality home run derby booth.
One of the more buzzworthy additions is the District Coolers stand by Section 108, which will serve “adult-style juice boxes” featuring a variety of liquors and flavors, including a raspberry gin rickey, pineapple tequila cooler, blueberry mojito, electric lemonade and black cherry sling. The concoctions cost $14 and come in Capri Sun-like pouches with colorful straws.
This season’s new food offerings include a Street Skewers stand by Section 113. The stand will offer a rotating selection of kebab-style street cuisine from Greece, Thailand, China and Mexico, and it will always include at least one vegetarian option. To start the season, the menu will feature three Greek-themed skewers: chicken souvlaki, beef and lamb keftedes and halloumi with vegetables.
Old Hickory BBQ, which was available in the Norfolk Southern Club last season, and Italian Outpost will debut behind Section 301, replacing Mike Isabella’s Catchfly and Kapnos at the Park concepts. Old Hickory BBQ’s menu includes a smoked hot link sausage with coleslaw and barbecue sauce, pulled pork and brisket sandwiches, pulled pork nachos and pork rinds. (The keftedes were the best new item I tried, but the pulled pork nachos were a close second.) Italian Outpost will offer several sandwiches, including a meatball sub and an Italian hot beef dip.
A Nationals spokeswoman told The Post last week that the team decided to end its partnership with Isabella in the wake of news that the chef and four of his business partners were named in a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a former top manager at his company. On Monday, Jonathan Stahl, vice president of ballpark operations and guest experience, said the team was already planning to replace Catchfly and Kapnos at the Park this season, but the allegations led the Nationals to also remove Isabella’s G sandwich stand by Section 136. Stahl declined to reveal what will inherit the space that G had occupied since 2014, but a replacement is scheduled to be in place by the home opener April 5.
In other food-related news, Nathan’s has replaced Hatfield as the official hot dog supplier of Nationals Park. In addition to its classic dog, Nathan’s jumbo, foot long and corn dogs will be available. Hyattsville-based Encore Sausage is the new sausage provider, and veggie dogs will continue to be sold.
The Nationals will also introduce two Philadelphia-style soft pretzel carts by Sections 130 and 315. Knotted Up will offer pretzels with various gourmet dipping sauces and spice mixtures, including pub cheese, chipotle honey mustard and cinnamon brown sugar.
Other new and enhanced beverage options include Compass Coffee stands by Sections 142 and 216, and District of Cocktails in Sections 112 and 135, which will offer a rotating selection of cocktails from four local distilleries. All four distilleries — District Distilling Co., Republic Restoratives, New Columbia Distillers and One Eight Distilling — will collaborate on a specialty cocktail before July’s All-Star Game.
Beer-wise, the Nationals will sell 25-ounce large format beers throughout the ballpark for the first time. District Draft stands will again offer a rotating selection of beers from breweries in D.C., Maryland and Virginia. The “guest tap series” at select District Draft carts will also return.
“What we started doing a little bit of last year was taking a couple of tap handles and working with some of the much smaller breweries that don’t necessarily have the capacity to be on a draft line all year long, but we can give them a little publicity,” Stahl said.
As for cosmetic changes to the park, the kids’ play area inside the right field gate has been expanded and redesigned. The new space will feature increased seating for parents and a new play structure targeted for children 5 and under, in addition to the original structure. For $5, older fans can take a few hacks in the new virtual-reality home run derby booth adjacent to the kids’ play area. The Nationals are also opening a social media lounge by the family picnic area, which will feature interactive displays with social media posts, as well as cornhole and phone charging stations.
One other change to note, especially if you like keeping score: The Nationals will no longer offer complimentary “Inside Pitch” programs, which included a scorecard, as fans enter the ballpark. Nationals chief revenue and marketing officer Valerie Camillo said the team brainstormed ways to deliver the same experience without the environmental impact of printing millions of pages of programs every year. Content similar to what was found in “Inside Pitch” will now be available via the MLB.com Ballpark App. Beginning this season, Nationals-branded scorecards (with pencils) will be sold for $1 in the team store and at various stands throughout the park.
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