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Baseball and COVID-19: A Whole New Ballgame
April 9, 2021 -
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Carefully, baseball teams are welcoming fans back into their stadiums after playing games in empty stadiums in 2020 during the COVID19 pandemic. While the Texas Rangers barrelled right through any capacity restrictions to host more than 38,000 fans at its home opener, the rest of major league baseball is starting small.
Consider Milwaukee, where the Brewers recently opened American Family Field to about 11,000 fans for the first games of the 2021. Steve Ethier, the team’s senior vice president of stadium operations, says fans attending games will see an array of changes to stadiums, some of which have become familiar in other facilities over the last year.
The changes start with an updated parking process that seeks to minimize fan contact with staff, he says. Through the MLB Ballpark app, fans can get a pre-paid parking pass to provide no-touch entry.
When attendees line up to enter the stadium, masks and social distancing will be required, Ethier says.
"It's expected that all fans and employees will have their masks on at all times," he says. “There will be no tolerance for not wearing a mask.”
When asked about changes to ventilation in the stadium to curtail the spread of the coronavirus, Ethier said the stadium’s retractable roof and sliding outfield panels will go a long way in ensuring proper air flow.
"We may push the envelope a little bit more and have it open — the roof or the panels — but it's still dependent on the playability of the game and fan comfort," Ethier says, adding that the organization has upgraded to using MERV 15 filters in areas of the stadium served by air handling units.
In terms of enhanced sanitization, Ethier says the stadium earned certification from the Global Biorisk Advisory Council through ISSA, and all disinfection teams now use professional-grade cleaning products.
Fans attending games this year also will notice an abundance of signs directing pedestrian traffic through the ballpark to prevent fans from congregating.
“We have signs for everything now,” Ethier says.
Ethier noted one change to stadium operations that fans won’t notice. To prevent contact in the stadium’s lower levels between the event staff and players and coaches, the team had to relocate the event staff area to elsewhere in the stadium.
Dan Hounsell is Senior Editor, Facility Market.