For a week before last year’s NLDS, we were inundated by the media’s coverage about the disaster that would ensue if the Nationals had a late night game with an early Metro service closing. Last year, Metro was on early shutdown and who could forget when Game #5 of the NLDS was scheduled for a Thursday night with no late Metro service available. We came up with the social media phenomenon using #NatsRide as a form of ride-sharing through a crowdsourcing strategy, and it worked well — and maybe better than well. There was no mass exodus from Game #5 of the NLDS when the game approached 11 p.m. The media was waiting outside of the stadium and on the Metro platform, and there was only a trickle of fans who left early and it felt like “good” won over “evil”. #NatsRide won the night since the Nationals did not. For years Nationals fans were dogged as lousy fans which has never been accurate. This year there will be new challenges.
Last year the Nationals had an excuse.
“Metro won’t hear of any changes,” Nationals principal owner Mark Lerner said during a radio interview on 106.7 last year. “They flat-out told us it’s not happening. So if we get deep [into the playoffs] and you have these 8 o’clock, 9 o’clock games, frankly, people are going to have to bring their cars. Metro will be useless, because who wants to pick up in the fourth or fifth inning and go home? It’s crazy. But they’re not cooperative at all, unfortunately. They just said they don’t care what event it is, they’re not going to cooperate.”
This year, the Nationals will host the first and second games of the best-of-five NLDS against the Chicago Cubs on Friday, Oct. 6 at 7:31 pm and Saturday, Oct. 7 at 5:38 pm. There shouldn’t be a Metro problem with either of these games because on weekends Metro is regularly scheduled to close shortly after 1 a.m., with the last train to Greenbelt leaving the Navy Yard Metro platform at 12:52 a.m. and the last train to Branch Avenue leaving at 1:18 a.m.
On June 22nd, Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld announced that it could extend Metro hours for Nationals post-season games — but nothing is free. The extra charge this year is $100,000 per extra hour of service compared to near a reported $30,000 per hour fee just 2 years ago, but according to reader Robert Schiff, “as under Metro’s previous policies, the event organizer will get any part of their deposit back that is covered by riders’ fares after the regularly scheduled close of the system” whereby the final cost for whoever fronts the money for that extra hour would be far less than $100,000 unless the game went more than one hour late.
“Let the record be clear that it is up to the Washington Nationals to pay for the late-night [Metro] hours. If they choose not to pay, then it will not stay open and it is not Metro’s fault, so we don’t want to get Metro booed at one of these games again, because it’s not our decision whether it stays open late or not,” said Jack Evans, Metro Board chair and D.C. council member.
Metro seems to be getting out-front on this issue early. The financial stakes are even higher. Metro closes during the week at 11:30 p.m. and that probably won’t work for any weekday game beginning at 8 p.m. At a $100,000 additional cost per hour, who will pay the fee?
This could be set for a showdown in the media to see if this becomes an issue.
— JWerth's Beard (@JWerthsBeard) October 12, 2016
We certainly hope that the Nationals and Metro can reach a deal this time before this gets to an issue for fans. Here was a piece from last year on #NatsRide on a local TV station as the hashtag went viral and trending in not only Washington D.C. but also in Los Angeles as many people clicked in fascination while many clicked in disbelief how the mass transit system let down their customers. This article by Scott Allen on the Sports Bog of the Washington Post explained #NatsRide and helped the cause by spreading the word. The media quickly embraced it, but truthfully, we hope we don’t have to do it again.
“It’s not a matter of money. They just will not give anybody a break. Whether it’s us, they did it to the Marine Corps Marathon, whatever,” Mark Lerner continued last year in his 106.7 interview. “It’s unfortunate, because you’re talking about a few hours, and it’s a major event in the city. But they could care less. They don’t care of it’s the Caps, or the Wiz. How about all the restaurants they’re killing downtown by these rules? The system has to be fixed, we understand that, but there should be a little bit of flexibility here. But unfortunately, I think at the end of the day, people are going to have to find alternate ways to come, they’re gonna have to come earlier and plan for it.”
If it’s not a matter of money like Mark Lerner said, what is it a matter of?
Our inquiries to the Washington Nationals have not been answered. We will update if we receive a response.