Nats’ new stadium comes at a price

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Washington Nationals tickets will be among the most expensive in Major League Baseball when the team begins play in its new ballpark next year under a pricing plan that increases the cost of season tickets about 43 percent.

The average per-game cost of a season ticket at the new baseball-only facility will be $30, the club announced yesterday, up from $21 this season at RFK Stadium. That figure does not include 1,800 “premium” seats behind home plate at the new ballpark, which range in price from $150 to $300 per game.

Other teams have not announced prices for the 2008 season, but Nationals tickets likely will rank among the five most expensive in the major league, in the same range as those of the Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, New York Yankees and St. Louis Cardinals.

About 24,000 seats — 60 percent of the stadium’s capacity — will be located in the lower bowl, where no ticket will sell for less than $25. Nationals President Stan Kasten said, however, that more than 11,000 upper-deck tickets will sell for $20 or less, with many available for $10. Grandstand seats will sell for $5 but will not be sold as part of a season-ticket package. Prices for single-game tickets have not been announced.

“We worked very, very hard both to maximize revenue while at the same time making [all] of our customers — including those budget-minded people — able to buy tickets,” Mr. Kasten said at a press conference overlooking the new ballpark along South Capitol Street in Southeast.

The Nationals are expected to be one of the top revenue-producing clubs in baseball once they move into the $611 million, publicly financed facility. Team owners, led by the family of Theodore N. Lerner, have pledged to spend more than $50 million on the stadium to improve fan experience. Those changes include widening the outfield concourse to accommodate more in-game entertainment and a large, high-definition video screen and scoreboard.

The Nationals late Tuesday night e-mailed current season-ticket holders details about moving from seats in RFK Stadium to comparable seats at the new ballpark — a big challenge, given the difference in design of the stadiums. Many fans spent yesterday communicating with members of their season-ticket groups to discuss options.

Jason Collinsworth, a network engineer from Centreville, Va., is a member of a group that shares two seats in Section 319 of RFK Stadium. He pays $34 per game for his seat at RFK but said the price of a comparable seat at the new stadium would be $50 or even $60, depending on where he is moved.

“That’s a little exorbitant given the product on the field,” he said, referring to a Nationals team that holds the second-worst record in the National League. “I’m thinking we’re probably going to move or look somewhere else. It’s more than I anticipated, but not out of the realm of what I imagined.”

Mr. Kasten acknowledged the difficulty of accommodating fans because the configurations of the new ballpark and RFK Stadium are drastically different. Instead of simply assigning season-ticket holders new seats, the team provided fans a questionnaire and will make placement decisions based on those answers. To give fans more choices, the team created 24 seating options, an increase from the 15 at RFK Stadium.

“It’s impossible, because the configurations are so different,” Mr. Kasten said. “We intend to do this very methodically, and we expect it will take us three or four months. The process will be time-consuming, but we’re going to do what it takes.”

Mr. Kasten said the team already has received hundreds of responses to the questionnaire. Season-ticket holders have been asked to respond and give deposits before July 13. The relocation process gives priority to season-ticket holders based on longevity of the account, plan size, seating category and the initial date and time of purchase.

Meanwhile, the Nationals have been accepting deposits on luxury suites since March, and nearly half are sold. Mr. Kasten said introductory prices on the suites will expire next week.

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