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New York Baseball Parks Welcome Back Fans, But Is It Too Much Too Soon?

Yankee Stadium and Citi Field to allow fans at 20% capacity.

New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo, announced last week that New York City’s two baseball arenas would be allowed to accommodate 20% capacity of fans beginning Opening Day. Prior to the announcement, outdoor arenas in the state were only open to 10% capacity.

For Yankee Stadium, this means over 10,000 fans can attend games, and over 8,000 for Citi Field. The Yankee home opener is on April 1, the first day of the Major League Baseball season. Opening Day at Citi Field is April 8. The Yankees take on the Blue Jays, who will be playing their home games at their spring training facility in Florida for at least the first two home stands due to the ongoing US-Canadian border closure. The Mets will face the Miami Marlins in their home opener. 

There will, of course, be additional precautions taken besides the limited capacity. The most notable is perhaps the requirement that fans show proof of either full vaccination (two shots for Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, or one shot for Johnson & Johnson) or a negative COVID antigen test taken within the past 72 hours. Fans age two and older will need to wear a face covering. Concession purchases at Citi Field will all be cashless. Sanitizing will be done on a daily basis. 

As the weather warms and more Americans seek out vaccinations–currently, the U.S is vaccinating about 2.5 million people per day, according to the NY Times–it is logical that businesses would start to reopen. Pro sports, which took a huge financial blow in 2020, are no exception. 

But some people are concerned about the potential ramifications of opening too much too soon. Despite the pace pickup in vaccinations, only about 24% of adults in New York have received at least one dose of a vaccine, and about 13% are fully vaccinated. That still leaves a lot of room for the virus to spread, especially at large gatherings. Furthermore, New York and much of the rest of the country appears to be mired in a bit of a COVID plateau, with cases still being reported at an extremely high rate, too high to say we’re anywhere near herd immunity. 

Cuomo and New York have historically been slow and cautious in reopening, but much of the state’s restrictions are being relaxed, including capacity in restaurants, gyms, and entertainment venues. Experts have warned that relaxing limitations at a crucial point in the pandemic could send us back into another surge. 

On the bright side, the precautions taken by the Yankees and Mets appear to have the fans’ best interests in mind. Baseball has the added advantage of outdoor seating, which has been shown to be a hindrance to COVID spread. 20% capacity is low enough that groups of families can sit with each other and eat and drink comfortably without coming too close to strangers. 

Many fans are excited to get back to the ballpark in any way, shape, or form. With the looming collective bargaining agreement about to expire in the offseason, labor disputes are inevitable. The best advice for fans who miss live games is to try to get to a game this season, if you’re feeling comfortable enough. 

Because 2022 for MLB could be what 2020 was for the rest of the world — a complete and utter disaster. 

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Elizabeth DiPietro

Elizabeth DiPietro

Liz DiPietro has been a staff writer for In The Zone since 2011. She is a New York City public school teacher working at a middle school in Brooklyn, NY. Liz has a Master's of Creative Writing from Queens College and a Master's of Special Education from the College of Staten Island. She is a diehard Yankees, Knicks, and Jets fan and exercise enthusiast. Liz lives in Staten Island, NY with her husband Dave and 2-year-old son Christopher.

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