I was able to attend my first live sporting event since January 2020 but was the experience the same and how safe did I actually feel?
It was a bittersweet moment for me when I was able to walk into T-Mobile park for the first time since September 2019 to watch my beloved Seattle Mariners. It was also bittersweet because it was simply my first live sporting event since January 2020, which feels like years ago. Finally being able to watch a game in person again is a moment I will never forget.
Around two weeks before the beginning of the Major League Baseball season, many of its 30 teams — including the Mariners — announced that they would be allowing a limited capacity at their games to start off the season and slowly allow more as local restrictions are lifted. Working with local government and health officials, the Mariners were able to receive the go-ahead to allow 20% capacity for the month of April, which is around 9,000 fans.
As a fan of the Mariners, I was ecstatic when I heard the news that I was finally able to go to the ballpark and experience a game. Last season not only were there no fans present at any of the games, but the season was also shortened from the six months it usually is to a meager two. Everyone was itching for a full and normal baseball season.
The Mariners offered several different ticket pricing options and spread fans out amongst the whole 47,943 seat stadium so everyone could have their space. They sold tickets in two, three, four and six seat pods that remained a safe distance away from the next closest pod.
Other than the seating pods and a few policy changes, the experience felt about the same as it always did. You would be surprised how much noise a 20% capacity crowd can make; there were moments at the game that felt like a normal opening weekend night where the stadium was typically sold out. Mariners pitcher Marco Gonzales recognized the difference the fans made on opening night.
“It felt like a lot more. You could feel the intensity, you could feel the anticipation that people have getting out here,” Gonzales said in his postgame interview.
In addition to the game experience itself, I also felt safe in the general sense. It can be scary for anyone to go out to an event with 9,000 people during a pandemic that put a pause on for over an entire year, but I can safely say that every fan should try to make their way to a game because the Mariners did a great job with limiting any possible COVID exposures.
Every fan is required to wear a mask for the entirety of the game once they enter the stadium, other than when they take it down to eat or drink and most people were following this rule very well. No bags or outside food and beverage were allowed into the stadium which also made the security lines go much quicker, limiting the amount of time people had to stand in line.
As people continue to be vaccinated and local restrictions are lifted, the Mariners will continue to raise the capacity and we will hopefully be at full capacity by the summer. These games can be an example for other local sports teams as well, including the Seahawks and Huskies, who begin games in September and are also hoping to welcome back fans.
We are so close to traditionally attending live sports again and if all it takes is wearing masks and abiding by a few new rule changes, then there should be no reason to not go to a game again. Sports are finally returning to normal and I highly encourage everyone in need of a mood boost to go attend a ballgame this spring.