Fans Return to the Ballpark in the COVID Era

The Atlanta Braves hosted fans at Truist Park Friday night for the first time since 2019.

Truist Park on Friday night.

Last year, MLB teams played a shortened season in front of empty seats as the world responded to the coronavirus pandemic. This year, fans are gradually being welcomed back into stadiums across the professional sports leagues in the country.

This return comes as Georgia’s coronavirus cases continue to decline and vaccinations increase. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 20% of Americans are now fully vaccinated.

But it has not been a complete return to normalcy. At the stadium, reminders of the pandemic were everywhere as the team sought to keep the experience as safe as possible.

A statue of Hall of Famer Bobby Cox with a face mask to encourage mask usage at the park.
Signs encouraging fans to follow public health guidelines lined the concourse at Truist Park.
Fans scanning their tickets were reminded to keep social distance with markers on the ground.
Hand sanitizer dispensers were scattered throughout the stadium.

Despite many notices and guidelines, it wasn’t always a picture of public health. Many fans did not wear their masks at all times as required, and social distancing broke down in many areas, especially in the shops and restaurants outside of the stadium.

Social distance guidelines broke down on Opening Day at Truist Park.

The long-awaited return to Braves baseball drew a sell out crowd, with a caveat. The team only sold tickets to fill 33% of the stadium, which totaled about 15,000 seats. Fans were intentionally spaced out in the stands to accommodate social distancing during the game.

Fans were seated apart from each other to encourage social distancing.

The Braves have clearly noticed the high demand for tickets. While they originally planned to keep capacity at 33% for all of April, they announced an increase to 50% capacity beginning next week.

Covering state government in Georgia.