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MLB to have say in Rangers’ Globe Life Field crowds

Globe Life Field February 2020

After maintaining that local health officials are the best resources for teams looking to bring fans to the ballparks, MLB is now saying that its health professionals will weigh in on a proper capacity for Texas Rangers games at Globe Life Field.

Under a Reopen Texas plan administered by Gov. Greg Abbott, the Rangers were anticipating crowds of 50 percent of capacity (or slightly under) for Globe Life Field games in July once the season launches. But after an outburst of new cases this week, Abbott scaled back the Reopen Texas plan while closing bars and lowering capacities for other venues–down to 100 for outside gatherings.

Those limits don’t apply to sporting events, but that’s not stopping MLB from stepping in to oversee a Rangers game plan. The outburst of new cases certainly drew MLB’s attention, as well as reports of a smaller outbreak among Rangers front-office employees after being ordered back to work from telecommuting. From the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

While MLB will be mindful of local ordinances, the league will have a say in [the decision to host fans and to what extent], too.

“The commissioner has made no decisions regarding permitting fans at games,” MLB said in a statement. “The decision will be based both on whether local health authorities approve fans to attend games and whether our medical advisors believe it is appropriate to do so.”

The statement appears to be a shift in position by MLB, which last week was leaning toward letting local health officials work with clubs on allowing fans while staying largely in the background….

“We’re working with the understanding that we could have fans in the building beginning on Opening Day,” Rangers executive vice president Rob Matwick said last week. “It is based on local jurisdiction, but we are also part of a league. They do have some input and we want that input.”

The issue: the 113-page operations manual agreed to by MLB and MLBPA doesn’t address how to handle fans in games: the assumption from both sides has been that fans wouldn’t be in the ballpark once July play launches. Other leagues, such as the NFL and Premier League soccer, will or did place tarps in the front rows closest to play to enforce social distancing between fans and players. Will MLB look at doing the same?

With daily news about the spread of the coronavirus impacting the sports-business and facilities industries, it’s more important than ever to stay up with the latest news in the venues industry. That’s why we launched a Venues Digest newsletter focusing on coronavirus information across the ballparks, arenas, stadiums, theater and performing-arts worlds. For now it will appear daily, and for now it will be free of charge to industry professionals. Sign up here.

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