A Presidential View
A colleague of mine from Texas, Capital D, visited me recently and, rather than conducting our business over dinner at our traditional meeting spot on Capitol Hill, he offered to pick up tickets for a ballgame at Nationals Park. Being a Texan, Capital D likes to think big -- real big, like $325 Lexus Presidents Seats big.
"Hell, yeah. Let's go!"
This game was my first time sitting in the high-roller section behind home plate, famed for being lightly populated for many games since Opening Day. At this pricing level, I may never be back (unless it's for another "business meeting"), but I think it's worth sharing my experience with Grounds Crew readers who may be entertaining the idea of shelling out the cash for a mega close-up of Cristian Guzman's forearms or Dmitri Young's belly.
A ticket for a Lexus Presidents Seat entitles the purchaser to a free parking pass, complimentary buffet available throughout the game, complimentary in-seat food and beverage service, and access to three clubs, of which Capital D and I saw only the Lexus Presidents Club.
There, we sampled the offerings of the buffet, which ranged from raw oysters and jumbo shrimp to carved pot roast and couscous with dried cranberries and asparagus. Patrons had the option of dining in the white-tablecloth, dark-wood environs of the club or stuffing a plastic to-go tray for al fresco dining in the seats.
Happily, the bartender also permitted us to pour our Manhattans and martinis into plastic curly W cups. Her graciousness was matched by the maÃ®tre d' and wait staff, all of whom were extremely attentive, gregarious and helpful -- even after the ninth inning, when the Oval Office bar remained open for another 45 minutes. (Keep in mind that this watering hole is neither an "open bar" nor does a ticket include a beverage credit, unlike the tickets for the Red Porch restaurant.)
The Presidents Club, which is nicely appointed all around, also offers views of the room where Manny Acta gives his postgame press conferences, as well as a view of an interior cage where players take batting practice.
From the club, members and ticket holders enter the ballpark through large glass doors, and the emergent view of the field, scoreboard and video ribbons is quite dazzling.
Once in the seats, which are padded and extremely comfortable, we were frequently asked by Nationals staff if we wished to order anything off of the in-seat menu, which offered typical ballpark fare, soft drinks and a depressingly limited range of alcoholic beverages, all at cost. I thought it was odd that the food items weren't complimentary, especially because anyone could return to the club at any time to pile up another tray of buffet food.
As for the view of the game, I have to say I much prefer the view from our mezzanine seats in Section 223 (which cost less than 10 percent of a Lexus Presidents Seat), if only because the elevated perspective makes it easier for me to distinguish routine fly balls from potential home runs.
Over the next few seasons, it'll be interesting to see if the pricing structure changes for these premium seats. I know people who sat in the "equivalent" section at RFK who are still miffed about being shunted to the baselines.
So, bottom line: Are the seats worth the money? I think the answer isn't "yes" or "no", but "they serve the intended purpose very well."
If, for many of us, the purpose of going to Nationals Park is simply to enjoy a ballgame, it seems to me that goal can be satisfied just as well in most any other section. But if you want to combine a game with business, and either have deep pockets or a benefactor/employer who does, then by all means jump at the opportunity to sit in the presidential section, and lap up the luxury.
You may even get on TV or witness the spectacle of a Phillies Phan sitting in silence, thinking of all the cheesesteaks he could have bought for $325 back on Passyunk Avenue, instead of watching his team get shut out, 4-0.
Now that's absolutely priceless!
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