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2021 Preview: Yankee Stadium, New York Yankees

New York YankeesPlanning for the 2021 opening of Yankee Stadium began a year ago, as the New York Yankees prepare for an Opening Day with plenty of COVID-19 mitigation.

As part of a press briefing introducing 2021 procedures, Senior Vice President of Stadium Operations Doug Behar outlined the journey leading to the first regular-season game at Yankee Stadium since 2019. “This journey started more than a year ago,” he said. “We worked with industry experts. We collaborated with anybody that we could. Our owners were intimately involved in the process to make sure that we were approaching this in the most strategic way possible.” That planning manifested itself with an operating plan allowing for a reduced capacity–initially 10 percent, then raised to 20 percent–and 10,850 fans on hand. That limitation will be in place for the first 11 games, and although Behar said there was no timeline for reviewing that restriction, you can expect reconsideration next month across baseball.

The Yankees are operating under MLB’s COVID guidelines, with a few additions mandated by state and local officials. The most stringent: fans will need to produce proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test. (Those restrictions also apply to staff and media.) Rapid testing for a fee will be available at the ballpark.

In addition, the Yankees implemented serious sanitation measures both on the fan side and the ops side, upgrading procedures to earn a WELL Health-Safety Rating for Yankee Stadium, the first one awarded to a sports venue worldwide.

“Health and safety protocols will be here for the future,” Behar said. “Cleaning doesn’t apply just to COVID-19.”

Adding to the complexity of planning: Yankee Stadium has been a vaccination site, and 80,000 vaccinations were administered through today. The end of the program is April 30.

Seats are being sold in groups of two and four, and mandatory mask usage will be enforced. Yankee Stadium is going cashless this year, with reverse-ATM machines available to convert cash to loaded cards. 

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