The field itself inside T-Mobile Park looked just about ready for baseball, a welcome early-spring sign of our slow return to normalcy.
The rest of the stadium remained a steady work in progress Wednesday afternoon as Seattle Mariners officials prepare to host the region’s first pro sports game with fans since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Using blue painter’s tape and large black zip ties, crews are stitching together seating pod configurations throughout the ballpark that, team officials say, will maintain social-distance requirements and keep fans safe when they return for the Mariners’ 2021 season opener next week.
Earlier this month, state and county officials approved the reopening of local venues, with no more than 25% capacity. The Mariners are allowed to host 9,000 fans inside T-Mobile Park for the team’s first 11 games of the season, and the club announced it has already sold all 9,000 tickets for the April 1 season opener against the San Francisco Giants.
Malcolm Rogel, the team’s vice president of ticket operations, said he and his colleagues in the ticket office had a quiet celebration when they learned they would be able to welcome fans back.
“There were some tears and a lot of ‘air’ hugs,” he said.
Then the ticket operations staff got to work.
“Something we would normally do (preparing ticket packages) in six months, from October to March, is now done in six weeks,” he said. “So it’s been really difficult — a lot of long nights — but is there anything more worth it? This is unbelievable to get fans back.”
Season-ticket holders had first priority in purchasing seats, starting last Friday. They gobbled up about 24,000 of the 99,000 tickets available for the first 11 games.
On Wednesday morning, fans who had subscribed to the “Mariners Mail” newsletter got early access to the next batch of tickets. In the first two hours of their availability, about 25,000 more tickets were sold Wednesday.
That leaves roughly 50,000 tickets available for the next 10 games when they become available to the general public at 10 a.m. Thursday.
Fans attending Mariners games will be required to wear masks and sit only in their pod area.
Another significant change: No bags will be allowed inside T-Mobile Park. That includes purses. The intent is to create a “touch-free experience” for fans, security and vendors at the ballpark.
Pod sections range in size from one to six seats. Yes, there are single seats scattered throughout the stadium, marked with the blue tape, looking a bit like lonely islands six feet apart any other blue-taped seat.
The zip ties have been installed on folded seats to make them inoperable. Some concession stands will be open, but fans will not be allowed to stand and watch games from the concourse.
“It’s a lot of change,” Rogel said. “It’s been 542 days since we’ve had a fan in T-Mobile Park for an event … and it’s going to be a different experience for fans.”
Roughly 500 tickets, as of Wednesday afternoon, were available for the final two games of the Giants series, and Rogel said he expects those to sell out quickly on Thursday.