- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 14, 2005

Food and merchandise vendors outside RFK Stadium last night reported sluggish business prior to the start of the Washington Nationals’ home opener against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

About a dozen vendors lined the sidewalk in front of the D.C. Armory, the area designated for licensed vendors by the District’s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, which regulates vendor licensing. There are 23 spots available for vendors.

Despite a steady of stream of people exiting the Stadium-Armory Metro station and making their way onto the stadium grounds — where the smell of hot dogs and relish wafted through the air — many merchandise vendors said the baseball fans were passing over them.

A woman who was standing in front of a table full of blue, red and black bandannas, sunglasses, and pink, black and red baseball caps said business before the game was “terrible.”

A vendor named Ralph, who would not give his last name, said fans were buying the Nationals items he had for sale, including parking signs, penants, bumper stickers, key chains and hats.

“Anything with the Nationals logo — they love it,” he said.

Ralph declined to tell how much he spent on merchandise or how much money he had made so far.

D.C. resident Maureen Long and her nephew Nicholas Long bought three baseball caps for $10 each from a different vendor before going inside. She said the prices for the hats were about $5 cheaper than those she saw in some stores.

“That’s one whole beer we can buy inside,” she said.

The prized item of the night for Connie Morrow was a bright red baseball cap with “DC” etched into the top, which she and her husband, Bill Morrow, purchased for $10 from a vendor.

“It’s a D.C. hat, which is what I wanted,” Mrs. Morrow said.

Food vendors in front of the D.C. Armory said business was slow at the beginning but was starting to improve.

“It’s OK,” said food vendor Aminata Phillips, who at 5 p.m. estimated she already had made $100. “It’s picking up slowly.”

Ms. Phillips said she was selling mostly snacks, like M&M;’s, peanuts, granola bars and prepackaged cookies and some hot dogs.

Several fans, including Gaithersburg resident Harvey Gershman, took advantage of the vendors to grab a bite to eat before entering the stadium. The D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission, which manages RFK Stadium and the D.C. Armory, does not allow fans to bring food into either venue.

“I just bought a banana,” Mr. Gershman said. “It was a dollar — real reasonable.”

Wes Allen bought a box of Mike and Ike candies from an outside vendor for 25 cents to make change from a larger bill. He said the vendors’ presence adds to the atmosphere.

“It wouldn’t be the same if you didn’t have the carnival getting from the Metro to here,” Mr. Allen said.

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