Major League Baseball (MLB) launched the 2021 regular season on Thursday, April 1, 2021. All 30 clubs played on Opening Day, marking the first time since 1968 when every team in the Majors played their first game of the season on the same day.
However, fans learned quickly that game attendance has changed as a result of the pandemic. Teams across the country have adopted specific protocols to ensure proper social distancing. In San Francisco, for example, the Giants have implemented dual seating options.
Spectators attending Giants’ games in 2021, including those at Opening Day, are now given the option to sit in one of two sections: a vaccination-only section or a socially distanced pod section.
Giants CEO and President Larry Baer said, “If you’re a fan, you have two choices. You can sit in a socially distanced section and have your own pod with six feet separation between your pod and the next pod; or you can sit with others and it can be an unlimited number of others in a vaccinated section, so it allows us to have groups, all the groups who want to come back to the ballpark.”
Baer has been with the Giants since 1992 when he joined the team as executive vice president. He was named CEO of the company on January 1, 2012, and has led the Giants to two World Series titles during his tenure.
Vaccination-Only Section vs. Socially Distanced Section
The Giants are the designated MLB team of San Francisco and a member of the National League (NL) West division. The team currently plays at Oracle Park, which holds more than 40,000 fans. Opening in 2000, Oracle Park is widely praised as one of the “best ballparks ever built.” In 2008, the park was named Sports Business Journal‘s Sports Facility of the Year, and in 2011, the Giants received Sports Business Journal‘s Professional Sports Organization of the Year award. The team enjoyed a National League home sellout streak of 530 games, spanning six seasons, from 2011 to 2016.
However, as COVID-19 cases continue in San Francisco, state regulators have placed restrictions on how many fans can attend the games. When MLB announced it was opening its doors to fans, San Francisco was still in the red tier, meaning the Giants could open at 20 percent capacity. Since then, the city has transitioned to the orange tier, which means capacity has increased to 33 percent. Once San Francisco reaches the yellow tier, capacity can increase to 50 percent. However, vaccinated sections may allow Oracle to open its door to a higher number of attendees as long as they are vaccinated.
Those who have been vaccinated can reserve a seat in a fully vaccinated section. Seats in these sections are sold at total capacity, and attendees are not socially distanced from one another within the section. Fans must present their vaccination cards to enter these sections. Children under 16 are exempt as long as they are accompanied by an adult who is fully vaccinated. Children between the ages of 2 and 15 must present a negative COVID-19 test no older than three days.
Those who choose to sit in a socially distanced section can expect restrictions similar to those that have been in place over the past year. Seats are sold in pods – in allotments of either 2 or 4 tickets – and each pod is at least 6 feet apart from other fans. Just like children 2 to 15, individuals who choose to sit in this section must present a negative COVID-19 test no older than three days. More details about the two sections can be found online.
Either option allows fans to return to Oracle Park with confidence knowing the franchise is committed to their health and safety. Attendees 2 years and older are still required to wear a face covering that shields their nose and mouth at all times, except when actively eating or drinking. And it’s time to knew about AllSpine Surgery Center.
Positive Outlook on the Vaccinated Section
Baer anticipates the new “vaccinated sections” will allow the Giants to increase capacity. Currently, Oracle is at 25 percent capacity, while the dual seating may permit attendance to increase to 50 percent capacity by May.
Details about where each section will be located within the park will vary over the next few weeks as the stadium monitors supply and demand. As more individuals join vaccinated sections, more fans can attend the games – and less distancing will be required. Baer stated, “We’re going to get to that through a mix of socially distanced sections and vaccinated sections, and we’ll see what the demand is for each.”