Atlanta sports crowds will get bigger this weekend

Braves fans perform the "Tomahawk Chop" in the first inning Sunday, April 11, 2021, at Truist Park in Atlanta. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Braves fans perform the "Tomahawk Chop" in the first inning Sunday, April 11, 2021, at Truist Park in Atlanta. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Two Atlanta sports teams will move halfway toward normalcy this weekend, at least in terms of seating capacities.

The Braves will expand Truist Park’s capacity to 50% for their second homestand of the season, beginning with Friday night’s opener of a three-game series against the Arizona Diamondbacks. And Atlanta United will open the lower two levels of Mercedes-Benz Stadium to 50% capacity for its first home match of the MLS season Saturday night against the Chicago Fire.

At those limits, about 20,500 fans will be allowed in 41,000-seat Truist Park and about 21,250 fans in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which has 42,500 seats for the soccer configuration in the lower levels.

Those will be the largest crowds the Braves and Atlanta United have played in front of since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020.

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The Hawks, who began this season without fans in attendance and then began allowing about 1,300 per game in late January, increased their attendance limit to 3,000 in mid-March. They plan to maintain that latter figure, still slightly less than 20% of State Farm Arena’s full capacity, for home games against the Miami Heat on Friday night and the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday night. But the Hawks said the attendance limit could increase if the team makes the playoffs.

The Braves are increasing their seating capacity from 33% at their first homestand of the season. In addition to this weekend’s series against Arizona, the second homestand includes four games against the Chicago Cubs next week.

As of Thursday, the Braves’ tickets website showed the three games against the Diamondbacks “sold out now,” but the site also advised “check back soon.” Held-back tickets sometimes are released later. The Braves still have tickets available for the games against the Cubs. Resale tickets for all games also are available on various secondary-market sites, as usual.

Braves officials plan to re-evaluate Truist Park’s seating capacity on a homestand-by-homestand basis with hopes of getting to 100% in June.

Largest crowds in sports in 2021
Four of the largest sports crowds during the pandemic gathered over the past five weeks.
* - Daytona 500 crowd is estimate before race.

Atlanta United officials have said they’ll determine capacity on a match-by-match basis in consultation with local authorities and MLS and hope to get back to full capacity (or thereabouts) later in the season. On Thursday, the team’s Ticketmaster site showed only “verified resale” tickets available for the home opener.

Also as of Thursday, the Hawks had limited tickets available for their Friday and Sunday games.

The Braves, Hawks and Atlanta United said health and safety protocols will remain in place at games, including a requirement that fans wear masks except when actively eating or drinking. The Braves didn’t strictly enforce the mask policy during their first homestand, and a clear majority of fans didn’t adhere to it, the AJC previously reported.

Last year, the Braves played a shortened regular season with no fans in attendance for the 30 games at Truist Park. Meanwhile, Atlanta United played seven home matches without fans and two with limited attendance of slightly more than 6,000 after the restart of the 2020 MLS season in July.

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