Friday, April 03, 2009

Stan Kasten Availability During Today's Media Tour At Nationals Park

After everyone had the opportunity to taste all the foods offered up today by Levy Restaurants at Nationals Park, Team President Stan Kasten answered questions from the assembled media. While talking with Mr. Kasten, we were eventually joined by reporters from The Washington Post, The Connection Newspapers, WTOP, NBC4 and WUSA9.

Here is that transcript from the Q & A Session:

Even in the middle of this bad economy, is baseball alive and well?

“Well, it is The National Pastime for a reason. And this year because the nation is dealing with some of these economic issues, we are responding to what our customers are going through.”

How did all of this come about to get Levy Restaurants in here?

“At the end of last year, we thought given what our last concessionaire (Centerplate) was going through, company wise—we thought in review of the first year of the ballpark—we thought we could all do better. We came together with Levy’s, whom I had worked with many times before in the past. I know the quality of their work. I know the care that they put into customer service training. And we made a deal—we came together—and they have done a great job, not just here (general concessions) but they have also made the private areas (Clubs & Suites) even more special. The (Stars & Stripes) Club Level will be more of an upgrade experience than it was last year. I thought that last year some of the experience was too general. This year it’s going to be a little better. I will tell you that I had the best stadium pizza I have ever had in any ballpark in the Stars & Stripes Club the other night (at a Suite Holders Tasting). Pizza is a personal pet peeve of mine. Stadium pizza is never as good as you can find in a pizzeria. I am telling you. I invite anyone that is in the Stars & Stripes Club to try our pizza up there because it’s really top notch.”

Specifically, what are the goals in trying to make the fan experience better—off the field?

“The most important thing was getting better customer service at the stands. I thought that was really lacking last year. Transaction times were too long. There was not enough familiarity with the menus—not enough supervision of the servers. I think we are going to change that this year. Yes, I think the first game or two or three there is still going to be a learning mode. But I think, very quickly, we should be up and running to the standards we should be.”

Can you comment on the new high-end offerings and game experience?

“The new high end offerings are terrific. Levy’s has done a tremendous job making each level of service special. You need to become a member there!! (Chuckling). Look, the ballpark is a great place to come out to—irrespective of what the score is that night. You are going to have a great time at the ballpark--with what is going on out on the field; entertainment on the video board; audio entertainment and just the open air feel of the ballpark. We wanted to step up the experience. We wanted better food. We wanted more alternatives and we wanted better service at all the stands. And I think we are going to be delivering that this year.”

That would include the changes in The Red Porch?

“Yes, it’s very exciting. As you all know, The Red Porch was the last thing that was turned over to us. We got it, literally, the day before the season started. So we didn’t have the opportunity to make it what we wanted. It’s now a regular sit-down experience, not a private club; anyone in the ballpark can use it. It’s being expanded into both sides to the open plaza and into the seating bowl. Anyone can come in and reserve a table and have a great dinner. The menu has changed. I think in your (Press) kit they will have some sample menus. So the food is better, the experience is better. And the whole (Centerfield) Plaza is much more fun—which is why we have the MASN Pre-Game and Post-Game show. Every night we will now have our guys (announcers) out there doing the pre-game and post-game show. We are going to have entertainment. We are going to have a stage in the middle of those three shrouded things (statues) that I don’t want to talk about—yet. But that will be another addition to the fun element in our ballpark.”

Do you have any idea in the Kids Zone—how many actually use it?

“I wish I was that smart. I just don’t. But I do know that we’ve always said we try to appeal to every demographic. We have the private clubs for that country club experience at the ballpark. We have the Red Loft and the Miller Scoreboard Walk up there for that Georgetown Nightlife Crowd who couldn’t possibly have a better time—even if they were in Georgetown (laughing). And then we have the Kids Family Area--which is interactive and interactive, not just for kids, but even for grownups. We try to reach out to everyone and if more people have different ideas, let me have them, because we are also interested in more and better ideas.”

When you did these changes, how important was the perspective of these economic times—making sure this stuff was economically feasible to the people?

“Well listen, we have no business without customers. And our customers are experiencing some very difficult economic circumstances—maybe the worse in all our lifetimes. We are trying to respond in all the ways we can. We are making the evening at the ballpark more entertaining than ever—more fun than ever—cleaner and with better offerings than ever before. We’ve also done what we can economically by lowering ticket prices—by making smaller ticket packages—by having family ticket values—by having family food values. We are reaching out in all the ways we can to work with our customers as they live through these tough times.”

“And I will tell you this, Baseball has always been the most affordable alternative in sport. And this year, it will be more affordable than ever.”

Will the quality of this food at the ballpark, improve the number of wins on the field?

“I can’t say there is a direct correlation. I can tell you it will improve what is already a superb experience and it will make it even better.”

With that final answer the media availability with Stan Kasten ended.

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