In a major blow to the booming cardboard-cutout, faux-fan industry, but in a major buzz for humanoid fans and the teams they love, people will soon populate stadiums, yards and other gathering spots in the state of Washington.
By March 22, all 39 counties will have some COVID-19 fan attendance restrictions removed for outdoor events such Mariners, Sounders and OL Reign games, as well as high school sports, rodeos, motorsports and other outdoor events.
Gov. Jay Inslee announced Thursday afternoon that his Healthy Washington plan to re-open businesses had reached Phase 3, meaning as soon as March 22, restaurants, retailers, fitness centers and other indoor spaces can use up to 50% capacity. The new rules for youth sports and high school sports begin March 18. As the day began, 28 other MLB began plans to allow spectators.
About 9,000 fans will be allowed at the Mariners April 1 home opener against San Francisco at 25 percent capacity. The same percentage will work for the Sounders, Reign and any facilities with permanent seating. Masks and distancing will still be required.
It’s a start.
The news comes exactly one year after the NBA announced the first positive test among professional team athletes. The game was shut down, the season was shut down and the entire sports nation followed, grinding to a dead stop.
No March Madness. No prep championships. No Masters golf tournament until November. Each MLB team canceled 102 games from the usual 162-game schedule. The Sounders sneaked in a final home game March 7, most everyone there wondering if or when they might see another game. We all learned a phrase new to sports: “The bubble.”
But now, with a competent federal government distributing three kinds of vaccines, and a generally compliant citizenry cooperating with the safety requests of public health officials, state sports are returning in places besides TV, because new coronavirus cases are in decline.
Mariners chairman and principal owner John Stanton released a statement:
“We have been working closely with state and local officials the past several months to get ready for this day. The health and safety of our fans, players and employees is our number one consideration. With the guidance of experts and best practices for health and safety, we are thrilled to be able to welcome fans back to T-Mobile Park for the first time since 2019.”
Regarding ticket sales, the Mariners said only the first 11 games will be offered initially, and season ticket members will have priority to reserve seats ahead of single-game buyers. Mariners Mail subscribers will have access to a March 24 presale, and remaining single game tickets go on sale March 25 at mariners.com/tickets.
The Sounders open their regular season at Lumen Field April 16 against Minnesota. President of Business Operations Peter Tomozawa also released a statement.
“Since our gates closed to the public nearly one year ago to this day, we have been waiting for the moment to safely gather together again in support of this team that means so much to us all. To know that the day in question may just be over a month away is an incredibly exciting prospect for our entire Sounders family. We have said all along that public health and safety must come first before welcoming fans back, and while today’s news provides the type of hope and inspiration we all need right now, we will continue to take a methodical approach in implementing this process alongside regional health authorities, our partners at Lumen Field and MLS.”