- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 27, 2005

The Washington Nationals needed just 44 minutes yesterday to sell the remaining 10,622 single-game tickets to their April14 home opener, with fans snapping up the coveted tickets in a fevered blitz.

More than 73 percent of buyers purchased their home-opener tickets online. But a crowd of more than 200 also ventured to the RFK Stadium ticket office on a cool, damp morning, beginning to line up at dawn.

“The tickets went very fast, just as we expected,” said David Cope, Nationals vice president for marketing and sales. “Demand far exceeded supply.”

The ticket sale was not without its issues, however. As for many high-profile sports events and concerts, Ticketmaster’s online servers were unable to handle the full onslaught of fan demand yesterday, leaving some would-be buyers unsuccessful even if they began seeking tickets just as the noon sale began.

Some prospective online ticket purchasers received messages of tickets no longer being available as soon as 12:02 p.m. Nationals officials said 564 tickets to the home opener were sold at RFK Stadium, 2,110 at area Ticketmaster outlets, and 158 over the phone to Ticketmaster call centers. Some of those sales were dedicated set-asides to serve customers who do not own a computer.

The block of available seats to single-game purchasers was significantly larger than expected, as many holders of 20-game ticket plans declined an advance opportunity to buy tickets to the home opener. Those refusals, while surprising, stemmed partly from the available seats for the home opener being less attractive than what was purchased in their ticket plans.

Yesterday’s sale also was the best opportunity for fans to get tickets to the home opener without committing to either a half- or full-season ticket, and find their way into a game that will be heavily attended by political luminaries, local business leaders, and officials and sponsors of Major League Baseball.

The face value of tickets for the available seats yesterday ranged from $7 to $45. On the secondary ticket markets, seats to the home opener have soared as high as $1,500 each. The game marks the first official MLB game in the District since 1971, and yesterday’s single-game ticket sale for the event prompted a new wave of subsequent offers on outlets such as EBay, craigslist.org and stubhub.com.

Most of the home-opener tickets were in the upper deck of RFK Stadium as season-ticket holders have claimed much of the facility’s lower bowl.

Some tickets to the home opener do remain, but only as part of a new purchase of a full- or half-season ticket.

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