On Thursday night, the Oakland Athletics will become the first professional sports team in the Bay Area to host thousands of fans at a game since the beginning of the pandemic, with Alameda County permitting the Coliseum to operate at 26% capacity.
The A's kick off their 2021 season tonight against the Houston Astros at 7:07 p.m., with games 2 and 3 happening on Friday and Saturday. This matchup pits the A's against the team that knocked them out of postseason contention in the abbreviated 2020 season.
And the venue now unfortunately called RingCentral Coliseum, with a normal capacity of 63,132, will get to welcome in as many as 12,188 fans at a time.
"Baseball fans bring so much energy to the park, and our game is so much better with that passion in the stands," said MLB Commissioner Rob Manred in an open letter to fans. "We are hopeful that hearing the sounds of a ballgame in-person represents important progress towards a 2021 that looks and feels closer to normalcy."
The San Francisco Giants have also been cleared to have fans in the stands when their home opener happens next week, on Thursday, April 9 — but in contrast to the A's, the Giants are requiring fans to show proof of vaccination or show proof of a negative COVID test in order to attend. Oracle Park in SF will be able to operate at 22% capacity under an agreement that was just finalized with the city on Wednesday, allowing 9,200 fans at a time in pods of two to four, with in-seat concessions only — concourses will reportedly be closed in the stadium.
As KPIX reports, MLB and the players' union informed teams on Monday that once 85% of their Tier 1 staffs — including players, trainers, and coaches — have been vaccinated, COVID protocols including face masks can be relaxed.
For A's fans, though, masks will be required inside the Coliseum except when eating and drinking. Also, per the county via KPIX, "the first two rows of the ballpark around the lower bowl will be roped out to protect the players from exposures."
The North Parking Lot at the Coliseum, currently being used as a mass vaccination site, will obviously be closed to fans. Fans arriving will need to access the South Parking Lot using the Hegenberger Rd. exit, and parking is $30 with no tailgating allowed. The BART connector path to the Coliseum will be open for those arriving by BART.
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