- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 13, 2005

The Washington Nationals yesterday sold more than 50,000 individual game tickets, pushing the club’s guaranteed home attendance for 2005 past 1.8million.

On the first day single-game seats were made available, fans began lining up at RFK Stadium shortly after 7a.m., nearly five hours before sales began. Once open for business, the Nationals received a steady and often frenetic wave of activity throughout the day across online, phone and in-person sales outlets.

The sales traffic will not likely match the initial expectations of Nationals executives, who predicted early last week that more than 100,000 tickets would be sold in the first weekend of individual game availability. But with a promotional and giveaway calendar still not in place, something that is a key driver of individual game sales, and Opening Day seats not yet on sale, team officials still were pleased with the results.

“I think this number is pretty good representation for us for the first five or six hours of sales,” said Kevin Uhlich, Nationals chief operating officer. “The Internet continues to churn away with orders, and we had a lot of people come out to the stadium and brave the cool weather and the wind. This was definitely a good day for us.”

The single-game sales combine with more than 21,500 full-season ticket equivalents sold by the Nationals, making the club a lock to surpass 2million in total attendance for its inaugural season in Washington and a strong bet to pass 2.5million. The team drew just 2.59million combined in its final three seasons as the Montreal Expos.

The 1.8 million in Nationals ticket sales already registered ranks higher than the 2004 attendance of the Florida Marlins, Pittsburgh Pirates, Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Kansas City Royals, and leaves the lower bowl at RFK Stadium virtually sold out for the season.

The top-selling games yesterday included a May13-15 series against the Chicago Cubs, an April 3 charity exhibition against the New York Mets, and an April 30 contest against the Mets.

Tickets for the Nationals’ April14 home opener against Arizona will not go on sale until March 26. As few as 5,000 general admission seats will be available for that historic contest because the club will first offer full and partial-season ticket holders the opportunity to purchase additional seats. A lottery is being strongly considered for at least part of the remaining block of available seats.

Marvin Jones of the District will go to the game as the guest of the Nationals because he was first in line at RFK yesterday. Jones arrived at 7:15 a.m.

Though several hundred fans did go to RFK to buy tickets, the vast bulk of sales were done online, with orders for more than 43,000 seats taken through Internet channels. The marked shift to online sales contrasted strongly against the sales patterns of full-season tickets last fall, which had been a near-even split between Internet and telephone orders.

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