After a full season of playing in empty stadiums, the Washington Nationals will allow 5,000 fans back into the ballpark for Opening Day on April 1 and will seek permission from the city to expand capacity for future games.
“We cannot wait to have our fans in the stands again, wearing red and cheering on the Nats, as we begin our quest for another World Championship,” Mark Lerner, the team’s managing principal owner, said in a statement issued late Monday, when the decision was announced.
At this point, though, the Nats are only making tickets available to season ticket holders. In the press release, the team said information about ticket sales to the general public “will be announced at a later date and based on availability.”
Lerner said the team has worked with former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, as well as other health experts, Major League Baseball officials, and the DC government in order to make sure they can safely host fans. They’ve put hundreds of hand sanitizer stations around the ballpark, installed MERV-13 air filters in the indoor locations, and beefed up their stadium cleaning efforts.
They’ve also instituted a number of new safety protocols for fans. Fans will be required to wear masks at all times, except while eating or drinking. Tickets will only be made available digitally—the Nats won’t be offering hard-copy tickets this season—and no cash will be accepted at the stadium’s parking facilities or concession stands. All fans must enter and exit the stadium through the specific gate that’s assigned to them on their ticket.
The news comes one day after the city granted D.C. United permission to host up to 2,000 fans in their stadium for home games this season. The Caps and Wizards have told Washingtonian that they have submitted requests to the city to allow fans into their arena as well.
In the press release, the Nats said they would begin conversations with city officials this week about increasing the number of fans that could be allowed into the stadium for the team’s second set of home games, starting April 15.
Most other MLB teams have announced plans for similarly sized crowds, with the Nats’ 5,000 number ranking above Boston (4,000) and the New York Mets (4,200) but below the Yankees (5,400), Philadelphia (8,600) and Baltimore (11,000), according to Ballparkdigest.com. Anyone eager for a complete, pre-covid baseball experience can also buy a ticket to Texas, where the Rangers are the first team to re-open at full capacity. Unfortunately for Washington fans, the Nats do not play them this year.