The Braves expect to have fans in Truist Park for the start of the season and will determine no later than March 12 how many can be there, team CEO Derek Schiller said Monday.
He said the Braves currently are working on a seating plan for the 14 home games in April, including the April 9 home opener, with the intention of revising the plan on a month-to-month basis as the coronavirus pandemic evolves through the season.
“It’s our belief that we will have fans,” Schiller said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “The authorities have given us the indication they support that. We’re working with health care providers on making sure we do that in the safest way possible. And also there’s precedent: (some) NBA, NHL and NFL games and even (MLB) postseason games have had some levels of fans in the venues. So we’ve been able to draw from those situations, learn from them.
“We think we’ve got the chance to do this safely and do it right, and we’ll welcome fans come opening day,” Schiller said. “I think some social-distance measures are going to continue to be important, at least to begin with, more than likely. What those are exactly and what the percentage of capacity would be exactly are things that we’re working on right now.”
The CEO of Braves owner Liberty Media, Greg Maffei, said on a conference call with investment analysts Friday that the Braves “are not yet sure of the seating capacity restrictions,” although later on the call he suggested the season might begin at 25% capacity, which would be about 10,000 fans.
Schiller said the seating capacity “is something that we’re still revising” this week and next. He expressed hope that the capacity, whatever it is for April, will increase later in the season as more people receive COVID-19 vaccine shots.
“We’re an outdoor venue, and that gives us a distinct advantage,” Schiller said.
Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
The home opener against the Philadelphia Phillies would mark the Braves’ first game at Truist Park with fans in attendance since October 2019. The Braves, like other MLB teams, played a shortened 2020 regular season without fans in the stands.
Several Braves season ticket holders told the AJC that they recently have been advised by the team, via letter or phone call from account representatives, that April tickets affected by reduced capacity will be credited back to their accounts. The season ticket holders were told that they then would be able to choose a new socially-distanced seat location (if available) for the April games, or could request a refund, or could apply their credit toward tickets later in the 2021 season or toward 2021 All-Star game tickets or 2022 season tickets.
One partial season ticket holder expressed displeasure that the Braves have been selling tickets as if they will have 100% capacity for the home opener, meaning that in a reduced capacity configuration many buyers won’t be able to use the seat locations they have purchased and may not be able to attend the game at all.
The Braves won’t say how many season tickets or home-opener tickets they have sold. It likely is more than a reduced April capacity will allow into the stadium, but it’s unpredictable how many of the buyers will continue to want tickets for a particular game when faced with changing seat locations in a reduced-capacity stadium.
Aside from social distancing, Truist Park protocols will include requiring fans to wear masks and encouraging the use of hand sanitation stations, Schiller said.