The Washington Times - February 5, 2008, 12:37PM
Nationals President Stan Kasten

\ - One of the most difficult things about the offseason, Kasten said, is that the team is essentially starting from scratch when it comes to sponsorships in the ballpark. Typically, a team will transfer at least one-third of its sponsorships from one season to the next, but this year the team has no carry-over. As a result, some areas of the ballpark that will eventually have sponsors will not have sponsors right away. \ “All of our deals will not be in place by Opening Day,” Kasten said. “It will be something of a work in progress.”\

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\ - No real news on the parking issue. Just a reiteration that there is not a lot of parking and that folks should seriously consider taking Metro or the free shuttle from the RFK Stadium lots.\

\ - Kasten said there would be between six and eight local vendors a the ballpark. He declined to reveal names because deals are still being worked out, but he indicated that rumors about certain establishments are true. So, devotees of the Ben’s half-smoke, myself among them, should be pleased.\

\ - The Nationals have boasted for a while about how they’re paying to expand the right-centerfield concourse, but I never knew exactly what they meant until yesterday. Basically, there was a long row of concession stands that curved around centerfield behind the massive scoreboard. The team decided to push the curved portion back about 50 feet, opening up a big area where the team plans to install a two sided bar and possibly some entertainment options. The change gives the outfield concourse a more open feel; Kasten said it added 10,000 square feet.\

\ - Reporters got to see where the cherry blossom trees will be installed in the left-center concourse and near the main entrance to the ballpark. There are about 10 boxes carved out; team officials said they trees have been selected and tagged at a nursery in New Jersey and will be planted by the end of the month. \

\ - The press box is still under construction, but already reporters noticed a major design blunder that hopefully will be remedied by Opening Day. We found that the long table where sportswriters sit is too low for anyone to get their legs under, even if they’re sitting in an ultra-short chair. While the low table means a nice view of the field, there’s no way anyone can work there. We notified the PR staff, who immediately told Stan. Hopefully that gets fixed in the next 54 days.\

\ - The Nationals were kind enough to give us some lunch, including a soft pretzel shaped like a “W.” As a Philly-area native, I am kind of snobbish when it comes to soft pretzels. These passed the test. Buttery. Salty. Soft. Very tasty. \

\ The big question, of course, is “will the park be done?” And the short answer is yes, although even Kasten admits that the team and sports commission will be adding elements to improve the overall look and feel of the ballpark even as the season goes on. \

\ “It will be virtually 100 percent done except for the enhancements and additions we will put in to help make it a cooler place,” Kasten said. “And that will never stop.”\

\ \ — Tim Lemke