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Nats' Winning Ways A Boon For Business

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With the Nationals in first place in the NL, fans are turning out in droves, which is good for area businesses.
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With the Nationals in first place in the NL, fans are turning out in droves, which is good for area businesses.

Young baseball talent in Washington has lifted the Nationals to first-place standing in the National League midway through baseball season.  But strong first-half play is not just winning over skeptics around Major League Baseball, it's winning over fans as well.

The Nationals are averaging 7,000 more fans per game than last season — a 32 percent jump which is the second biggest in baseball. But Nats Chief Operating Officer Andrew Feffer says he's not surprised by the surge.

"People are talking about us on social media, radio, talk radio, blogs," says Feffer. "That is as much of a metric as the attendance that is going on."

While the team's 49 wins and addition of rookie phenom Bryce Harper might be capturing the media's attention, Feffer says it takes more than that to keep the turnstiles moving.

"When you have a great team that's compelling, interesting and young, and you've got a great venue and fan experience, and you provide value  when you do all three of those things together, the magic happens and you see the attendance that's happening here," says Feffer.

But it's not just the Nat's organization cashing in. Businesses near Nationals Park say they're reaping the benefits as well.

"It's just been a whole different vibe," says Joe Gonzalez, a manager at Justin's Café, just blocks from Nationals Park. He says sales are up more than 30 percent this year, thanks in large part to more fans swarming the area.

"There's definitely a lot of conversation as to how much busier and how much more exciting things are down here in the neighborhood," says Gonzalez. "It's awesome."

Even restaurants more than a mile away are feeling the impact. Eric Brannon, General Manager of Ted's Bulletin, says his restaurant is on-pace to have a record year.

"After games, it s just a sea of people coming up here — kids, families all sporting Nats gear," says Brannon. "They're definitely doing a lot for the neighborhood."

And that trend may continue, even if the Nats drop out of first place. Feffer says ticket sales for the season's second half are selling more quickly than ever before.

Matt Michaels' report is part of a partnership between WAMU News and Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

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