Going to see the Washington Nationals play baseball can be a daunting task for dwellers of the outer ‘burbs, such as Ashburn, particularly when schedules could put fans on the road at rush hour.
Three Loudouners recently decided to try to change, and earlier this month launched a website for Ballpark Bus. Visit the website and choose an upcoming game, select a restaurant from which to depart and make a reservation. Participants still need to purchase tickets to the game, but the reservation saves them a seat on the ride to Nationals Park. Reservations for the Nationals season home opener against the Cincinnati Reds open March 22.
The idea isn’t just about a bus ride; it’s a bus ride with fellow fans and an opportunity to meet up with friends or large groups and go to games together. Meeting at the restaurants provides a chance to grab a meal or a drink before or after the game. It’s a tailgate party of sorts, minus the tailgate.
“We’re all about taking the mundane and frustrating experience of riding to the game and making it an immersive, exciting event that’s fun and convenient for everyone,” said Brian Bowman, who lives in Brambleton. “We figure if they’ve got a place they can meet and have someone else drive, they might go to a few more games.”
Informal contests may pop up from time to time to keep the ride entertaining. For example, riders may be asked to guess how many strikeouts will be pitched that day and the winner might receive a gift card or some other prize.
“We’re all fans of the sport and fans of a good time. Any way to do both together, we’re all for it,” said Bowman, who developed the idea with two partners who also live in Loudoun.
Anyone who becomes a Ballpark Bus Facebook fan and rides on the inaugural April 12 trip to the home opener will be eligible for a Ryan Zimmerman autographed baseball giveaway. A week before the game, Bowman and his buddies will post a message on the Facebook page asking those fans to comment. After collecting comments throughout the week, the Ballpark Bus will chose a winner at random and ride on that person’s bus for the April 12 game to award the ball.
While all rides may not have the party atmosphere of the inaugural trip, Bowman said the idea is to have an opportunity for fans to enjoy games together and have a chance to go to more games.
And after enjoying a little fun along the ride instead of stressing about traffic and parking, the busses will drop riders off closer to the stadium than if they drive or take the Metro.
“It’ll drop you off right at the park,” Bowman said. “It drops you off right there.”
Rides to the park cost $18, but anyone who books their ride during the first three days that reservations are open for a particular game pays $15. Reservations open three weeks prior to the games.
“Our top priority is to make sure we are competitive with other ways to get to the game,” Bowman said. He said he and his partners wanted to keep costs down, but also had to place some value in not having to drive.
Riders meet at a designated restaurant ahead of time where the bus will pick them up. Some people like to get there early, have a drink, while others can arrive on time. Several restaurants currently are participating, but Bowman said the group hopes to expand significantly throughout the season and in the future.
“We’ve talked to quite a number of restaurants,” he said, adding that he’d like to see 15-20 restaurants participate. “We want this to be the preferred way for people in our area to get to Nationals Park.”
Here are the participating restaurants:
- in Ashburn
- Glory Days in Reston/Herndon
- The Green Turtle at Dulles Town Center
- The Green Turtle on North Glebe in Ballston
- Velocity Five in Centreville
Check out the attached video to learn how to use the service.