- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 31, 2005

The Washington Nationals and District officials are grappling with sluggish ticket sales for Sunday’s exhibition game against the New York Mets, and a sellout at RFK Stadium is highly unlikely.

Proceeds from “the mayor’s game,” in honor of Mayor Anthony A. Williams, will benefit the Nationals’ charitable foundation. But as of yesterday, only between 14,000 and 15,000 paid admissions had been sold. Thousands of tickets for the game also have been given away to workers who aided the RFK Stadium renovation and area school children.

Mark Tuohey, chairman of the D.C. Sports & Entertainment Commission, said yesterday he hopes for a total attendance of 25,000 to 30,000. RFK Stadium will seat more than 45,000 for baseball.

“There needs to be generated a better flow of ticket sales for that game,” Tuohey said. “We want to make a big push over the next several days to make that happen.”

Marketing for the game in recent weeks has been minimal, thwarted in part by the Nationals’ continued lack of a local TV deal amid Major League Baseball’s unresolved negotiations with the Baltimore Orioles. The exhibition game was not included in season ticket packages.

David Cope, Nationals vice president of sales and marketing, said the club set an internal goal of 20,000 in paid ticket sales for the game and is on track to meet that target. Walk-up sales also will play a significant role in the final turnout. The current weather forecast for Sunday calls for partly cloudy skies and a high of 59 degrees.

Only one game on the Nationals’ 2005 schedule is a sellout so far: the April 14 home opener against Arizona.

The exhibition game will serve as the first test of the $18.4 million renovation project at RFK Stadium, a mammoth effort conducted in just three months. Lockheed Martin has signed a marketing deal with the sports commission to be the presenting sponsor for the exhibition game.

The commission also is making available to the public a small block of single-game tickets to the Nationals’ season opener Monday in Philadelphia. Interested fans should call 202/608-1118.

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