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Nats open loyalty program to all fans and expand ticketing options in 2019

Nationals fans during a game last season. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

New concession items, including oysters, pupusas and steamed buns, aren’t the only changes to the fan experience at Nationals Park this season. Expanded ticket options, a revamped loyalty program and mobile vendors accepting credit cards should be welcome additions, while the team’s revised bag policy will be an adjustment for some fans.

In June of 2016, the Nationals debuted NatsPass. For $50, fans received a standing room only digital ticket, stored in the MLB Ballpark App, to all 10 home games that month. After offering a similar deal in certain months over the past two seasons, the Nationals are expanding the NatsPass program for 2019. In addition to the traditional NatsPass, which will be available starting in April and includes a standing room only ticket to every home game for $65 per month, the team will also offer NatsPass Silver and NatsPass Gold throughout the season. NatsPass Silver costs $85 per month and includes a seat to every game for which there are seats available and standing room only tickets for sold-out games. NatsPass Gold costs $125 per month and comes with a guaranteed seat to every game, including the option to upgrade to field-level seats for at least three games.

New at Nats Park for 2019: Steamed buns, pupusas and so many oysters

NatsPass is available exclusively through the Ballpark App, which has several new features this year, including a virtual assistant named Teddy. While Teddy was still under construction as of Friday morning, fans will eventually be able to ask it any number of Nats Park-related questions, such as “Where can I find oysters?” or, hopefully unrelated, “Where’s the nearest restroom?” Nats Plus season ticket members will be able to access and manage their eCASH account from within the app, which can still be used to purchase tickets, share tickets with friends and upgrade seats. Nats Plus members and anyone who purchases a NatsPass will also receive a free one-month subscription to DAZN’s digital streaming platform, which will produce a live MLB highlights show every weeknight.

After previously being exclusive to season ticket members, Red Carpet Rewards, the Nationals’ loyalty program, is now open to all fans. Rewards points, which will be tracked via the Ballpark App, may be acquired by checking in at games, watching and listening for Red Carpet Rewards codes during every MASN and 106.7 The Fan game broadcast, engaging with the Nationals on social media and completing a ballpark scavenger hunt that will change every month and be offered through the app. Points can be redeemed for merchandise, tickets, suites and several in-game experiences, such as visiting the broadcast booth or holding the finish line for the Presidents Race.

As part of a one-year pilot program, about half of the mobile hawkers in the ballpark will carry a handheld Square Terminal, which will enable fans to pay for items with a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, in addition to cash.

In February, the Nationals announced that backpacks will not be permitted inside Nationals Park this season. According to the team’s revised bag policy, which goes into effect for Monday’s exhibition game against the Yankees, exceptions may be made for backpack diaper bags and backpacks used for ADA or medical reasons. Season plan holders may request exceptions at all season plan holder gates, while non-season plan holders may only request exceptions at the family/ADA lanes located at the center field and home plate gates.

Purses, briefcases, drawstring bags, diaper bags and soft-sided coolers are still permitted, provided that they are no larger than 16 inches long, 16 inches tall and 8 inches wide. The Nationals’ outside food policy has not changed. Food items and soft-sided coolers that meet the size requirements are still permitted. Metal, plastic and glass containers are prohibited, except for clear, factory-sealed or empty plastic water bottles no larger than one liter, juice boxes, insulin containers and baby food.

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“We tried to eliminate one bag that we feel will make the stadium safer and much more secure, by prohibiting the bag that has the most compartments,” Scott Fear, the Nationals’ VP of public safety and security, said when the ban was announced.

The Cardinals began prohibiting backpacks at Busch Stadium in 2017. Earlier this week, the Astros and Tigers announced their own backpack bans, with the Tigers citing recommendations from the Department of Homeland Security as the reason for the change.

“We’re trying to make the screening process more efficient and safer for everyone that’s entering the stadium,” Fear said during Thursday’s ballpark media tour. “We want the fans to come in. We’re not trying to scare the fans away."

The Nationals will hand out 15,000 drawstring bags at Monday’s game. Fans who bring backpacks or oversized bags may utilize storage lockers located outside the right field and home plate gates. The lockers, which will be available two hours before the scheduled first pitch until 90 minutes after the game, will be provided by Binbox, a D.C.-based start-up. Medium lockers (10-by-15-by-22 inches) will be available for $2 per hour, charged in six-minute increments. Large lockers (15-by-15-by-22) will be available for $3 an hour. Rental fees will be capped at $10 and $15, respectively, each game. A Nationals spokeswoman said Thursday that the team will not receive any money as part of its arrangement with Binbox.

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After backpack ban, lockers will be available outside Nats Park for a fee