Play Ball: Padres Making Plans for Return of Fans on Opening Day

If San Diego enters the red tier by April 1, the Padres will be able to welcome fans on Opening Day

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There is finally reason for optimism surrounding the Padres. That doesn’t just apply to what the team is capable of, after constructing a World Series caliber roster. It also applies to the fans, who are hoping to see their squad in person at Petco Park for the first time in more than a year.

“There's more excitement around this team going into a season than perhaps any Padres team ever,” Padres CEO Erik Greupner told reporters Tuesday morning.

That excitement will be palpable on Opening Day on April 1 if San Diego stays on track to enter the red tier, which would allow MLB teams in California to welcome fans to stadiums at 20% capacity.

“And I think it'll be the loudest 20% capacity crowd you've ever heard at Petco Park,” Greupner added.

Greupner said the organization will use every part of the stadium possible to set up areas for fans, including Gallagher Square and standing-room only sections converted into fixed seats. He estimated that they can make room for around 10,000 spectators.

The tricky part is figuring out who gets access to tickets and how seating will be configured. In the beginning of the season, seats will only be available to fans who purchase ticket packages. The Padres sent members an email Tuesday outlining their plans, which break the season into two-month segments. Tickets for the first segment, April and May, will be available to members March 18. Anyone who has purchased a plan can opt out or seek a credit or refund if they aren’t comfortable attending games.

Right now, Greupner says they don’t know if the team will sell single game tickets at any point in the season. Until then, all available seats will be offered up to members.

Inevitably seats will wind up on secondary sites like StubHub, making them available to fans who haven’t purchased a ticket plan. With high demand and a limited supply, there is a good chance that prices on the secondary market will skyrocket. Greupner would like to see tickets stay in the family.

“Our hope is that this fan base and our season-ticket member base is going to be at the game themselves,” Greupner said.

Ideally, the number of available seats will grow as the season continues. If COVID-19 cases drop and vaccinations increase, Petco Park could look a lot more normal by season’s end.

“I would anticipate we might even be at full capacity at some point in the season," Greupner said. "I think that's a very distinct possibility.”

Ultimately, health and safety -- and guidance at the state and county levels -- will steer decisions. The Padres, along with California’s four other Major League Baseball teams, collaborated with Gov. Gavin Newsom on plans to have fans return by Opening Day.

Spectators will be seated in pods of six or less, spread six feet apart. Masks will be required for those older than 2 and must be worn when not eating and drinking. Temperature checks will not be required upon entry, but team employees will go through health screening and have access to COVID-19 tests. Greupner said that hundreds of hand sanitizer stations will be scattered throughout the park. Food and drinks options will be limited, utilizing mobile ordering, contactless payment and options for pickup and delivery.

“I'm confident that when we reopen Petco Park on Opening Day, it's going to be one of the safest places to be in San Diego,” Greupner said.

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