Texas Rangers Will Allow Full Capacity at Stadium for Home Opener Next Month
The Texas Rangers could play to a full stadium on Opening Day.
On Wednesday, the team announced that they will allow full capacity for their home opener at Globe Life Field on April 5 against the Toronto Blue Jays.
The announcement came as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott lifted the state's COVID-19 safety restrictions — a decision that has been panned by health officials and leaders nationwide.
"We were very encouraged that the Governor's Office has given clearance for us to fully open Globe Life Field at the start of the 2021 Major League Baseball season," Rangers President of Business Operations and Chief Operating Officer Neil Leibman said in a statement, according to CBS Sports.
"We will require all those who enter Globe Life Field to wear a mask or face covering," Leibman added, noting that the team is also working on "some additional protocols required for player health and safety."
The stadium has a capacity of over 40,000, according to the team's website.
After their season opener, the team will make several "Distanced Seating" sections available.
The sections, which "allow for more space between occupied seats," will be available for all other April home games, although additional information has not yet been released.
"We're not going to have the social distance seats available for Opening Day because we made a commitment to everybody [season ticket holders] that they could hold tickets if we would allow them for the proper Opening Day," Joe Januszewski, Rangers EVP and chief revenue and marketing officer, told MLB.com.
Any fans with tickets for the home opener that don't feel comfortable attending will be allowed to exchange their tickets for future credit, according to the outlet.
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Throughout the season, Globe Life Field will be totally cashless, in addition to enforcing a mask requirement at all times, except when fans are actively eating or drinking. Fans will also be required to maintain "safe distancing" in concession lines, according to the team's website.
Fans will not be permitted to enter the stadium if within two weeks prior to the game they either tested positive or presumptively positive for COVID-19 or experienced any symptoms associated with the virus. There is no mention on the team's website about any on-site testing protocol.
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Although no fans were permitted to attend MLB regular-season games during the shortened season last year, a limited number were allowed in-person at the National League Championship Series and the World Series, which were held at Globe Life Field.
While the Rangers are the first MLB team to allow for 100 percent capacity at any game, most teams have indicated that they will permit a small number of fans to return, although official plans have not yet been revealed.
Some have been critical of the decision, including Zach Binney, an epidemiologist at Oxford College of Emory University, who told The Athletic that allowing full capacity of fans is "frustratingly premature."
"We are not far off from being able to do that safely — we really are not. Two to three months. But we need to let the vaccine penetrate to more people, and then we can start having these large gatherings with more and more safety," he continued. "So it's disappointing to see that the Rangers aren't willing to wait just a little bit longer."
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