The Braves will play their first game in 19 months with 100% seating capacity Friday night, and they expect almost all of Truist Park’s seats to be sold.
“We’re still selling tickets, but I think the expectation is that we’re going to be at or near sellout,” said Derek Schiller, the Braves’ president and CEO. “We’re certainly very close right now … for Friday and Saturday.”
The Braves announced last week they would return seating capacity to pre-pandemic levels starting with Friday’s game against the Philadelphia Phillies after limiting attendance in April to 33% and then 50% of full capacity. The Braves also will play the Phillies on Saturday and Sunday nights, and the homestand will continue next week with a three-game series against Toronto, starting Tuesday.
As of Thursday afternoon, the Braves’ tickets website showed extremely limited inventory for the first two games of the Phillies series, although some held-back tickets could be released later. Much wider inventory was available for the games Sunday and next week.
“The demand is there, and we’ve seen that demand even when we were socially distanced and had limited capacity,” Schiller said. “We’re excited to roll this out and get to the 100%.”
He called the return to full capacity at the 41,000-seat stadium “a signal in some ways that our community is back opening up again and people are regaining some degree of normalcy to their lives.”
Two public health experts at Georgia State cautioned last week that while outdoor sports, with fresh air constantly moving, provide better protection against COVID-19 than indoor arenas, reopening any stadium to full capacity is particularly risky at this point given the sheer number of people crowded together.
Atlanta United also announced last week that it’ll return to 100% capacity in the two lower levels at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which has a retractable roof, starting with its next home game May 15. And Atlanta Motor Speedway announced it will open its grandstands to full capacity for its next major NASCAR event, the Quaker State 400 on July 11.
Schiller said the Braves plan to treat Friday night’s game “almost like an opening-day 2.0.” That will include pregame entertainment in The Battery Atlanta, a pregame tribute to the health-care industry and in-game on-field entertainment such as “Beat the Freeze” and the “Home Depot Tool Race,” according to the Braves.
All of Truist Park’s COVID-19 protocols “with the exception of the social distancing” will remain in place, Schiller said. That includes a requirement for fans to wear masks except when eating or drinking at their seats, although the mask policy hasn’t been strictly enforced at games. Cashless concessions and increased stadium sanitization measures will continue.
Schiller said fans not yet comfortable with returning to the ballpark “can choose to watch us on TV … and when you’re ready and comfortable, we’re going to welcome you back then.”
The Braves haven’t played a regular-season or postseason game in a full-capacity stadium since Oct. 9, 2019, when they had a standing-room-only crowd of 43,122 at Truist Park (then named SunTrust Park) for Game 5 of a National League Division Series against St. Louis. The Braves lost that series-deciding game 13-1 after allowing 10 runs in the first inning.
The Braves are opening Truist Park tonight to 100% capacity. The attendance allowed so far this season:
First homestand (April 9-15): 33% - 13,500
Second homestand (April 23-29): 50% - 20,500
Third homestand (Tonight-Thursday): 100% - 41,000