SEATTLE - For the first time in almost two years, Seattle Mariners fans were welcomed back to T-Mobile Park for its 2021 season opener. Those lucky enough to score tickets to the first game noticed several changes compared to previous experiences at the ballpark. Staff continues going to extra lengths to observe social distancing and avoid unnecessary contact during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fans said even if there were hundreds of safety rules, they would follow them just so they could see professional baseball live in person.
"I said I’d go wear a hazmat suit in there if I had to just to go inside. So, if I have to wear a mask while I’m in there…I wear it for eight hours at work. A few more ain’t bad and I’ll have more fun wearing it in there because I can scream and yell," said season ticket holder Loretta Wirtz.
T-Mobile Park was hardly full on game night, but fans were still filled with energy and excitement for the season opener against the San Francisco Giants. Following Washington’s COVID-19 guidelines, each home game will host 9,000 fans in socially distanced pods of one to six people. Remaining seats will be closed off with zip ties to maintain safe space.
Fans were eager to take their seats at the ballpark for the first time in 550 days.
"Oh, It’s been a long 19 months. I will never take baseball for granted again, said Wirtz. "Just being inside. Seeing the grass, the balloons, just the atmosphere that I haven’t had for a long time."
"We’ve waited so long to see this and it’s just...we’re home. We’re back home," said season ticket holder Sharon Hunt.
Hunt, Wirtz and their friends waited outside the front gate since 10 A.M. in order to be one of the first inside.
"Because this is what we do! This is what we do," said Hunt. "Go Mariners! We’re here!"
Concessions are all prepackaged, grab and go options and the only payment accepted is by card or mobile app. Merchandise vendors also will not accept cash in an effort to reduce contact. No bags are allowed inside to help speed up entry at the gates. Ticket holders said they will take whatever they can get as long as they are in the stands.
"It will be good to be in a crowd and be social. It’s just been so antisocial for so long. It’s good to be out and about with other people," said Seattle sports fan Tracy Moore.
Six feet social distancing markers are on the grounds throughout the stadium. Staff said the ballpark has enhanced cleaning and disinfecting measures, especially for high touch points like elevators and rails. Restrooms have an occupancy of 20 people and plexiglass divides each sink. Some fans said they don’t plan to leave their seats since the crowd is already limited.
"For the Mariners, they need a crowd. We need to get people back in the stands. It’s been years it seems like. We need to get a good team and we need to get something going here," said ticket holder Wes Heard.
All ticket sales are online only this season to help reduce contact. Fans will check in their tickets with electronic kiosks at every gate. Everyone must wear their masks at all times except for when eating and drinking at their seat.
With all the new changes, fans said at least being back to cheer on the home team is a good start to the season.
"Up and screaming and yelling and high fiving," said Hunt. "We live and breathe baseball!"
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