- The Washington Times - Friday, March 25, 2005

The Washington Nationals will have about 10,000 tickets to sell today for their April 14 home opener at RFK Stadium, an amount significantly higher than projected.

Earlier this month, Nationals executives estimated as few as 5,000 single-game tickets would be available for the game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, the first official contest in Washington for a District-based team since 1971. But after partial season-ticket holders purchased fewer seats to the home opener than expected, the pool of available tickets to single-game purchasers grew.

The Nationals also did not offer additional home-opener seats to full-season-ticket holders, as was planned earlier this month.

Ticket sales for the home opener will begin today at noon at the RFK Stadium ticket office, and through Ticketmaster’s telephone, online and retail outlets. The available tickets are expected to sell out within one or two hours. Fans showing up to buy tickets at RFK will be allowed to begin lining up at 6 a.m.

Most of the available seats will be in RFK’s upper deck.

“I’m surprised by what we still have, but there’s no doubt they will go very fast,” said Kevin Uhlich, Nationals chief operating officer.

The vast majority of ticket purchasers will acquire their seats to the home opener via the Internet. Since the Nationals began single-game sales two weeks ago for every other game on the home schedule, 87 percent of sales have been conducted online.

Unlike the March 12 start of single-game sales, the Nationals are not overtly inviting fans to come to RFK Stadium to buy tickets or offering free food and merchandise. While RFK is the one place fans can buy tickets without a service charge, waiting outside at the stadium does not necessarily improve the chances of securing any of the coveted tickets.

Earlier this week, the Nationals selected 400 winners of a lottery allowing those fans to buy single-game tickets to the home opener ahead of today’s crowd. Each winner could buy up to four tickets, and most purchased the maximum amount.

The Nationals did not solidify their number of available tickets to the home opener until late yesterday after waiting for days for ticket requests from Major League Baseball and the team’s corporate sponsors. Team executives declined to disclose the number of seats withheld from public sale, but the game, given its historic importance, will draw a large crowd of dignitaries and VIPs.

The single-game sales add to a sizable base of season-ticket sales that now exceeds 22,000. Those customers this week began receiving their tickets, which arrived in a specially designed box shaped like home plate and packed with a baseball and commemorative pin.

Meanwhile, finishing touches are being made in the frenetic renovation work at RFK Stadium. In recent days, workers have installed the bases, foul poles and a new sound system. Concourse floors also are being repainted, and team offices are near completion. The stadium is projected to be ready for the Nationals’ April 3 exhibition game against the New York Mets.

Also, Capitol Outdoor LLC, a District media company, has acquired the rights to hang signage on the exterior of RFK Stadium, including those from General Motors and Nissan Automotive. The company’s contract with the D.C. Sports & Entertainment Commission is not related to a separate effort to sell partial naming rights to RFK Stadium.

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