After 18 months of empty stands, fans were welcomed back into the Oakland Athletics (A’s) and San Francisco Giants’ stadiums on Thursday, April 1, and Friday, April 9, respectively. Although necessary safety measures have made the experience a far cry from its prime, pre-COVID-19 state, this development is cause for celebration.
Higher risk events warrant improved safety procedures that leave little up to chance. Upon arrival at Oracle Park, home to the Giants, fans are required to provide a negative COVID-19 test or show proof of being fully vaccinated for at least two weeks. Although this is not the case at the Oakland A’s RingCentral Coliseum, team executives and stadium officials are committed to prioritizing safety across the board. “We are very excited and are looking forward to welcoming fans back home to Oracle Park,” said Giants President and CEO Larry Baer in a statement. “We want to thank our fans for their ongoing patience, cooperation, and support as we navigate the challenges of the pandemic,” said Baer.
The A’s stadium has limited its capacity to 26 percent to facilitate the newly implemented pod seating approach. Groups of two to four are seated together in areas separated by zip ties and distanced from other pods. Oracle Park has a ballpark capacity of 22 percent, and the stadium has been divided into nine zones, each fan assigned to a gate and required to use the facilities particular to said zone.
In response to the safety of the event, A’s fan Felisha Dias stated, “I felt very safe and there was a lot of room between the seats.” Dias wasn’t alone in this sentiment. A’s fan and season-pass-holder, Chris Gibson, noted, “I feel like they are definitely trying to make it safe for spectators.” Gibson added,“You are more spaced out and the nice thing is it’s easier to get to the restrooms.”
Dias explained that stadium officials enforced the mask-wearing requirement very diligently. “If you weren’t eating or drinking, someone was walking around asking you to put up the mask,” said Dias.
Concession stands are one of the many trade-offs for the sheer size of the event. Replacing the beloved stands is a cashless mobile food-ordering service, in which fans order from their phone and the food is delivered directly to their seats. Opening night for the Oakland A’s stirred up a ruckus as a hiccup in the mobile-ordering service left fans struggling to get their orders through. Season pass holders Carolyn Moore and Chris Gibson both attended opening night and expressed their frustration with the event. “The way that they are doing concessions is a little bit trickier now,” said Gibson. The hectic nature of the concessions situation, on top of the A’s 8-1 loss to the Houston Astros made for a less than desirable fan experience. “The first game was awful,” said Moore.
Game officials have worked out these glitches, and for the most part, games have run much more smoothly since. After attending her second A’s game, Moore expressed that it was a much more enjoyable experience.
During these unprecedented times, the liveliness and general atmosphere of the games have been a constant. “I think that the Oakland spirit was still very evident throughout the game,” said Dias. Despite the awkwardness of returning to large-scale events, these bits of normalcy are exciting for A’s and Giants’ fans alike.