The Texas Rangers said they are drafting a plan that would allow for as many as 20,000 fans to attend Major League Baseball games at Globe Life Field when the regular season begins next month.
Under the Open Texas guidelines put forth by the governor’s task force, the team is exploring the possibility of admitting fans at up to 50% of the stadium’s capacity of 40,000, team officials said Wednesday.
The 2020 MLB season is scheduled to begin July 23 or July 24, and the Rangers are preparing to welcome fans beginning with their first home game. The team expects to receive its schedule no later than Saturday.
Teams will play 60 games, with half of them at their home ballparks. If fans ultimately are permitted to attend the 30 regular-season games that would be played at the new ballpark in Arlington, season ticket holders would receive first priority.
Part of what would make it possible for fans to attend games in 2020 is Major League Baseball’s decision to bow to local ordinances on reopening plans. Rob Matwick, the Rangers executive vice president, said the team will consult with MLB as well as state and CDC guidelines — and not those of Tarrant County or Arlington — to determine the safest plan.
Gov. Greg Abbott told KTVV/Channel 11 that his office plans to work with the Rangers and Houston Astros on finding a plan to safely put fans in ballparks. He said there is no current plan to change the 50% standard despite a spike in COVID-19 cases locally and statewide.
“We look forward to working with the teams and to find out their strategies to make sure they will be able to open up their stadiums safely,” Abbott said. “Know this: If those teams cannot make the case to the public that their stadiums will be safe, the public will not show up. So, I feel confident we will find safe ways to open up the stadiums and have fans in the stands to watch Major League Baseball.”
The Rangers have hosted dozens of high school graduation ceremonies at Globe Life Field in recent weeks and have gathered an idea on how to socially distance crowds. However, those crowds were below 5,000 fans. The maximum crowd at baseball games could be four times that number.
Matwick said the Rangers are working on multiple seating manifests across all levels of the new $1.2 billion facility. Crowds for graduations were spread only throughout the main concourse.
“We can’t jam, we don’t want to jam half the capacity into the two lowest levels, even though they would be closest to the action,” Matwick said. “To get the distribution we need for distancing, we’re going to have to carry that over all levels of ballpark.”
Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said that fans would be kept far enough away from the playing surface to keep players, club personnel and umpires safe. His primary concern is fan safety.
“I don’t think the players are so much at risk just because of the distance involved,” Daniels said. “When you get group of people together, that’s when you have to beware of it.”
The Rangers will begin offering refunds or credits to fans holding individual game tickets for the rest of the season. Any fans holding tickets for the original March 31 home opener can keep them for the 2021 home opener or receive a refund.