The pandemic isn’t over, but that’s not stopping the Texas Rangers from filling their stadium for opening day.
Due to the recent loosening of pandemic restrictions in Texas, the Rangers will become the first North American professional sports team to allow a full-capacity crowd since the pandemic changed everything last year.
On opening day, April 5, against the Toronto Blue Jays, the Rangers will allow approximately 40,000 people at Globe Life Field in Arlington.
No fans were allowed to attend any regular-season games during the pandemic-shortened 2020 MLB season. While many teams in MLB and other leagues have announced plans to allow limited attendance in 2021, the Rangers are the only team to allow full stadium capacity so far.
The stadium also hosted fans for MLB games last season, as up to 11,500 were allowed to attend each game of the 2020 National League Championship Series and World Series, which served as a neutral site to keep teams from traveling.
“The Rangers are 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,” said President of Business Operations and Chief Operating Officer for the Texas Rangers Neil Leibman in a statement.
“We will require all those who enter Globe Life Field to wear a mask or face covering, and are working with Major League Baseball on some additional protocols required for player health and safety. We will continue to monitor developments and implement the necessary public health measures.”
The team is also set to allow full capacity for its final two exhibition games versus the Brewers on March 29 and 30. The Rangers will then revert to “distanced seating” for home games after opening day.
Masks will be required except when eating or drinking in assigned seats, and physical distancing will be enforced in concession lines and retail locations.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott has dropped the state’s mask mandate and lifted restrictions on businesses, despite opposition from health experts. President Joe Biden has also criticized the decision.
“I think it’s a big mistake. Look, I hope everybody’s realized by now, these masks make a difference,” Biden told CNN. “We are on the cusp of being able to fundamentally change the nature of this disease because of the way in which we’re able to get vaccines in people’s arms.”
“The last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking that in the meantime, everything’s fine, take off your mask, forget it. It still matters.”
According to The New York Times, as of March 11, there have been over 2.7 million COVID-19 cases in Texas, resulting in over 46,000 deaths. Case numbers in the state have been steadily dropping since the start of the new year though. The daily average on January 16 was 23,006, while as of March 11, it has fallen to 4,710. Still, only 9% of Texas’ population has been fully vaccinated to date.