Opening day of the Washington Nationals 2022 season is Thursday, April 7, as the Nats take on the New York Mets at 4:05 p.m. The park returned to its capacity of 41,000 after Covid caps last year. Things look a little different from the previous season, and not just on the pitch, as the National Championships organization has worked to improve the park experience through new offerings and advanced technology services. Here’s what to expect.

Faster entry into the park

Queues can be shorter and move faster this season with the introduction of a new security check system that allows fans entry without having to remove keys, wallets and other items “non-threatening” (it’s been embraced by the NFL and others for years).

Under the new system, all bags larger than a pouch must be transparent – plastic, vinyl, PVC (we’re calling it now: Ziploc freezer bags will be the fashion trend for the ’22 Nats season) . Bag size limit remains 16 x 16 x 8 inches. Lockers still exist outside the park to store items. And ladies, if you’re worried about exposing your tampons, the Nats are now offering free feminine hygiene products in every bathroom.

The new BetMGM sports book is a new place to eat, drink, watch sports and bet. Photo courtesy of BetMGM

BetMGM Sports Betting

Sports betting is on the rise around DC, and the Nationals have partnered with BetMGM to open the first sportsbook in an MLB stadium. It opened its doors every day (from 11 a.m. to midnight) in January. The chic 4,000-square-foot space near the main entrance has 40 TVs, a bar, food service from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m., and multiple betting booths and kiosks. While fans can’t come and go from the stadium and sports betting during games, a new app allows users to place mobile bets within a two-block radius of the park.

Fresh food options

As always, the Nationals has partnered with an exciting roster of local chefs and restaurateurs to promote local businesses and bring exciting flavors to the park. New to the culinary range for 2022 is stray rooster, DC’s best-selling fried chicken sandwich purveyor that will offer its Hot, Hot Nashville and Honey Butter Chicken (Item 238) sandwiches. A Washington classic also returns to the park after a hiatus: Hard Times Coffeewhich opened in Old Town Alexandria in 1980. It will be located in Section 105 with all things chili (vegetarian and meaty) – chili dogs, cups, fries, loaded nachos, and more. The Duke’s grocery storea spinoff of the Dupont Circle and Foggy Bottom gastropub, is now located in the revamped FIS Champions Club and will offer its burgers, tenders and mac’n’cheese to season ticket holders.

Some local fresh produce vendors you may have missed last season are also back. We are delighted to see mammoth Grazie Grazie subs from Taylor Gourmet Founder’s Casey Patten’s Wharf Sandwich Shop (Section 114) and local ice cream from South Mountain Creamery. A 2021 newcomer who is not making a comeback is Fukuthe fried chicken sandwich stand of Momofuku restaurateur, David Chang.

Roaming Rooster Chicken Sandwiches. Photo courtesy of Roaming Rooster.

Tasty cocktails and other local beers

On the consumer side, local beer supplier District ladies continues to expand within Nationals Park, which now has 13 locations. For the 2022 season, fans will find beers from 3 Stars, Atlas, DC Brau, Denizens, Fair Winds, Hellbender, Other Half, Old Ox, Port City, Solace, Right Proper and City State.

Cocktail lovers will find the new creations of Tory Pratt, creator of a local line of cocktail syrups, Pratt Standard Cocktail Co. Pratt will offer two specialty cocktails wherever alcohol is sold, although they can also be made non-alcoholic. One is a cherry blossom cocktail to match the Nationals’ new uniforms, consisting of vodka and a cherry blossom syrup made with sour cherry juice, rose petal essence and green tea. The other is a cranberry-orange crush.

Online ordering and improved technology

The Nationals are embracing technological advancements to enhance the fan experience in a variety of ways.

During the pandemic, the park adopted a cashless policy for parking, ticketing, retail, and concessions (and set up kiosks where fans can exchange paper money for eCash).

They also launched the MLB Ballpark app, which allows fans to purchase and manage tickets, upgrade seats on the fly, and purchase/order food, drink, and merchandise. For food and beverages, mobile pre-ordering reduces waiting time in queues. Items can be picked up from the concessions themselves or from portable concession stands. The Ballpark app can also help fans search for food by location or cuisine, and a virtual assistant can help answer all sorts of questions.

The Nationals also launched a new partnership with cryptocurrency community Terra and unveiled a new high profile club space behind home plate, the Terra Club (formerly the Nationals Club). Tickets (from $275) include all-inclusive food and beverages, specialty chef tables, on-site services, and more. Additionally, Terra’s coin, UST, may begin to be accepted into the park as early as next year.

Cool New Merch

Along with the Washington Wizards, the Nationals unveiled new cherry blossom-themed uniforms this season. The Nats will take to the field in the grey, white and pastel pink jerseys on April 9 and 10, as well as several other times throughout the season. Fans can pick up their own versions of City Connect uniforms at the Team Store or order them on the MLB Ballpark app, where they can even be delivered to seats.

Juan Soto wears one of the new cherry blossom-themed “City Connect” uniforms. Photograph courtesy of Washington Nationals.

food editor

Anna Spiegel covers the restaurant and bar scene in her native DC. Before joining Washingtonian in 2010, she completed the MFA program at the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in New York and St. John, in the US Virgin Islands.