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Rays to welcome back fans one step at a time

Capacity at Tropicana Field will be capped at around 9,000 to start, with the limits and process evolving.
The Rays are set Friday to welcome fans back to Tropicana Field for the first time October 2019.
The Rays are set Friday to welcome fans back to Tropicana Field for the first time October 2019. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times (2019) ]
Published Apr. 8
Updated Apr. 8

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays are set to welcome fans back to Tropicana Field Friday for the first time October 2019.

However it goes the first day — with masks required, bags not allowed and a capacity of around 9,000 in distanced pod seating with the upper deck reopened — they figure they will do better the next.

“Each game we’re going to learn as we move along,” principal owner Stuart Sternberg said. “We’re planning on the eventuality, at some point, of having more than this (amount) to come into the building.

“... If there was a year not to open at home, this was the year. We’re fortunate in that way. We’re learning about some of the things that have gone on with other cities.”

The Rays will consider how the first homestand goes, as well as positive coronavirus test and vaccine percentages, in deciding when to increase capacity.

“We know there is still a huge amount of trepidation to come back into the parks,” Sternberg said. “The people that want to come and feel safe for whatever reason, they’ve been vaccinated or they’ve had the virus, they’re coming out in full support. Most everybody is still being cautious, fortunately. We’re looking forward to the day in the not-too-distant future that everybody can come out and feel safe and enjoy the ballpark.”

Among new rules and regulations: all fans over 2 years old must wear a mask (no gaiters, bandanas or ventilated coverings) except when actively eating or drinking at their seat. No bags are permitted, to make for contactless security screening. No outside food or drink is allowed except for one sealed, personal-sized bottle of water. All ticketing is mobile and purchases cash-free.

There are also changes to food and beverage service, including prepackaged, individually wrapped and “grab-and-go” items offered where possible, condiment and refill stations modified to packaged service, and mobile ordering through the MLB Ballpark app, eliminating the need to stand in line at concessions.

Ceremonially speaking

Stadium gates will open at 1:40, with introductions to start at 2:46. After the Yankees are assembled along the third-base line, the AL championship and East division banners will be unveiled, then the Rays introduced at 2:52 with first pitch by Rich Hill at 3:10. The national anthem will be performed in person by Lynsey Bracken, a registered emergency room nurse at Bayfront Health St. Petersburg. No in-stadium first pitch is planned. TV coverage on Bally Sports Sun will start at 2.

Nathan’s hot dogs, boozy milkshakes added

New food and beverage options at the Trop for this season include:

Hot dogs now supplied by Nathan’s Famous, the long-standing New York based-company that also sponsors the annual hot dog eating contest on Coney Island.

St. Petersburg-based Beans & Barlour dessert lounge, providing “boozy desserts and milkshakes” using alcohol-infused ice cream with offerings including cotton candy, caramel and peanut butter milkshakes. (Also without alcohol or dairy.)

Stands on the Budweiser Porch called Modern Bird and Pig & Potato, with items such as chicken wings and a pork and beer cheese sandwich. Pacific Counter, which serves rice bowls and sushi, moves to the Budweiser Porch.

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