For the first time since COVID-19 shut down the country last March, Massachusetts sports fans will soon be allowed back into venues such as Fenway Park and TD Garden at reduced capacity. While stadiums will not fully reopen immediately, fans will sing “Sweet Caroline” at the bottom of the eighth for the first time in 550 days when the Red Sox take the field for opening day on April 1.
Large sporting venues—those with a capacity of at least 5,000 people—will be able to reopen at 12 percent capacity starting on March 22, Mass. Governor Charlie Baker announced in a Thursday briefing. The change is a part of Phase 4 of the state’s reopening plan which Baker outlined last spring.
“Step one of Phase 4 includes in and outdoor stadiums as well as arenas and ballparks like Gillette Stadium, Fenway Park, and TD Garden, which will be permitted to re-open with a 12 percent capacity limit,” Baker said. “These facilities will also be required to submit a plan to the Department of Public Health to demonstrate the safety measures they’ll be employing in opening up to the public.”
Up until this point, the Celtics, Patriots, and Red Sox have all played their games in empty stadiums packed with cardboard cutouts and artificial crowd noise, as have all Boston College teams.
It is unclear what these changes will mean for BC sports fans. While Conte Forum’s capacity exceeds the 5,000-person benchmark, the Pellagrini Baseball Diamond and other spring and winter sports facilities fall short. Ultimately, BC will have the final word on allowing fans at its games.
Senior Associate Athletics Director for Communications Jason Baum said in an email to The Heights on Thursday that BC has not yet made a decision regarding spring sports attendance.
If Baker’s recent order remains in place until next fall, Alumni Stadium could reopen with a fan allowance of 5,340, following a season of unattended home football games.
During the past year, colleges across the country have experimented with in-person attendance at sports games. Partially full bleachers were a common sight at away BC football games, and the NCAA recently announced its plans to allow in-person audiences for March Madness.
Professional sports teams in some states have similarly reopened their stadiums to reduced capacity. While the entirety of the 2020 baseball regular season was played without an audience, fans were allowed at the World Series. The NFL, NBA, and NHL have reopened stadiums on a team-by-team basis depending on governors’ orders.
“These large venues employ a lot of people, and many of them have been out of work for a very long time,” Baker said. “We’ve been watching how these venues perform in other states and believe with the right safety measures in place they can operate responsibly and safely here in the Commonwealth as well.”
Featured Image by Maggie DiPatri / Heights Editor