The Texas Rangers surprised the baseball world the other day when they announced, pursuant to Governor Abbott’s total re-opening of Texas, that Globe Life Field would be operating at 100% capacity starting from Opening Day. Texas currently ranks 24th in the nation for the most COVID cases, well above Washington (which has the fifth-lowest numbers of COVID per capita in the nation), but the Mariners have announced no such plans to open the ballpark to any fans.
EDIT, 2:44 PM: Jay Inslee just announced that all outdoor sporting venues with permanent seating will be allowed to have fans in the stands at 25% capacity. So the answer to the first question in this article is “yes.” The Mariners have issued an announcement that they’ll be allowing 9,000 fans at a time into T-Mobile—not exactly 25% of the park’s listed capacity, but I’m assuming they’re building in room for gameday staff and the like.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t a plan in place, though, as Ryan Divish reports in the Seattle Times. According to team owner John Stanton, the Mariners have been working with local health authorities and training staff in proper procedures in anticipation of opening the ballpark this year—if not in time for Opening Day, then at least at some point during the season.
EDIT: More details on the plan:
- The Mariners will start by offering tickets for the first 11 games of the season only;
- Season ticket holders will have an opportunity to reserve their seats before single-game tickets go on sale;
- There will be a presale on March 24 for Mariners Mail subscribers (sign up by March 22 to be eligible at Mariners.com/Mail.)
- Remaining single-game tickets will go on sale online March 25; Team Stores will begin selling digital tickets March 27.
- Tickets will be sold in pods of 1-6 for people who live in the same household only.
Washington was an early outbreak site for COVID-19, recording most of the nation’s first deaths in the pandemic, but quick action by local leaders and public compliance helped control the spread of the virus, both across the state and in its largest city. Seattle has had the fewest COVID-19 deaths of any of the 20 major metropolitan areas, according to a recent article in the New York Times detailing the city’s success in combating the virus.
In addition to Texas, almost every other MLB franchise already has a plan for fans in the stands in place. Most are allowing between 20%-30% capacity, with exceptions on either end being the Rays and Red Sox (6% and 12%, respectively) on the low side and Texas, Baltimore (50%) and Colorado (42%) on the high side. The Twins have a plan in place to open at 25% capacity, but are awaiting permission from Minnesota’s governor. The other exception is the Blue Jays, as Canada continues to enact strict travel protocols related to the pandemic, who will play their home games at their spring-training complex in Dunedin at 15% capacity.
In addition to masks, pod seating, and temperature checks, teams are getting creative with plans for safety at the ballparks. The Marlins, for example, will be utilizing drones to disinfect wide swaths of the park.
Edit: The Mariners have announced a few health and safety initiatives similar to what has been seen elsewhere, including mask requirements, digital ticketing, cashless transactions, individually packaged concession items, and a ban on all outside food and drink as well as all bags in the ballpark. I’m expecting we’ll hear more about the health and safety protocols over the upcoming weeks.
Since it seems like an inevitability that the Mariners will at some point be opening up T-Mobile Park to fans, I’m curious: do you plan to attend any games this year if the park is open? Is that an unqualified yes, or a qualified one? If so, how many games do you think you’ll attend? I also polled the staff to see where we’re at as a group:
(Amanda wasn’t able to elaborate on her answer for the same reason she is a no: her two small children.)
Connor: Qualified yes
Once I am fully vaccinated, I plan to attend at least one game this season, still masked. Hopefully more, but with demand likely to be sky-high given seating limitations and my personal expectations of waiting until the summer, I’ll hedge my bets and stick with a single game at the moment.
Eric: Qualified yes
If I can get vaccinated and tickets are not cost-prohibitive, I would love to attend a few games as long as everyone is fully masked up. I don’t think I would bring my kids, though.
Grant: Qualified yes
Feel free to throw this back in my face later on this year, but no. I don’t intend to go to any Mariners games in-person this season. This is partially due to COVID and an overabundance of caution for the population I volunteer with (higher-risk, struggle with proper mask-wearing), but more specifically due to my general reluctance to give this org my money. I know it’s silly, believe me. John Stanton’s socks likely cost more than my view-level tickets, but I just...I can’t do it. There’s no moral superiority complex to it - I can’t even really put my finger on a singular issue, just a conglomeration of factors that make the prospect personally unpleasant.
Fundamentally, what I miss most about in-person baseball games is sitting outside in the sunshine with my friends, drinking something cold and intermittently lounging/talking/people-watching - all things that are easily replicated outside of T-Mobile Park. (98% of the time, the dirt-cheap tickets I’d buy offered a worse view of the actual baseball than, say, the big projector out at The Dock.) Maybe (definitely) I’m just cranky and stubborn, and I’ll feel differently when life begins to return to some semblance of normal and the default is no longer to constantly deprive yourself of fun, but for now: See you at Opening Day 2022!
Yes, I’ll attend as many games as I can. That said, the only “qualification” would be the stadium/local government takes the steps necessary to help ensure our safety. I’ll be wearing a mask until I get the vaccine, and I would certainly need there to be limited capacity/pods to feel comfortable sitting in the ballpark. I trust myself to steer clear of small groups and close-contact conversations. That said, I will be foregoing all games with Jose Marmolejos in left field or Jimmy Yacobonis on the mound. I will not be taking further questions at this time.
John: Qualified yes (verging on no)
Kate: Qualified yes
While my trust in this organization’s overall culture has been significantly eroded over recent weeks, I do trust the Mariners, and the gameday operations staff, to provide the safest possible in-person experience. I’m also heartened by reading the NYT article (way to go, fellow Seattleites) and Tim’s citation below of the relative safety of outdoor events. But “safest possible” doesn’t necessarily mean “safe.” Because everyone in my immediate family is high-risk in one way or another, I won’t be attending any events until I’m fully vaccinated. I love going to games, but if it’s a choice between seeing the Mariners and seeing my family and immunocompromised friends, I pick them.
The main thing that might keep me from attending this year is the usual thing that keeps me from attending: cost and hassle. I don’t mean hassle surrounding safety, just the usual hassle for someone who lives outside Seattle getting down to SoDo, plus the presumably-inflated cost of tickets after a year without such diversions and a reduced capacity. But on the merits, I presume that any plan approved by the Governor’s Office will be structured such that I wouldn’t view the risk as particularly high at all; indeed, while the raw numbers may be high, attending a baseball game where everyone is masked, seated in pods, and temperature screened in an outdoor setting is no more unsafe than any other activity. See this database of COVID superspreader events—there is exactly one large outdoor sporting event listed, a soccer match in Milan last February (and hence, full capacity with no masks.) In fact, out of 2,043 recorded superspreader events, a mere 80 have been categorized as indoor/outdoor (including Milan) and there is only one solitary outdoor superspreader event listed.
So for the staff, that’s six “yes” votes, five “qualified yes” votes, and just two “no” votes, indicating the majority of the staff either would attend or would consider attending a game this season. What do you think?
If the stadium is opened to fans, will you attend any in-person Mariners games this season?
This poll is closed
Qualified yes (if I’m vaccinated, etc.)
If you will attend games this season, how many do you plan to attend?
This poll is closed
Probably just one