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Rays to increase Trop capacity to 20,000, relax mask requirement

The upper deck will be closed again and some seating sections will return to standard configuration.
Fans and players observe the national anthem before an April 21 game against the Rangers at Tropicana Field.
Fans and players observe the national anthem before an April 21 game against the Rangers at Tropicana Field. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published May 18
Updated May 18

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays are expected to announce soon that some fans no longer will be required to wear masks for games at Tropicana Field, and that capacity for home games will be increased to around 20,000 starting in June.

The change in the mask rule is expected to go into effect for the next home series, which starts Tuesday. Following the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fully vaccinated fans don’t have to wear masks; any fans above 2 years old who are not fully vaccinated still do.

The increase in capacity will start with the June 8 game against Washington. The Rays have been operating with a capacity of around 9,000 this season with distanced seating sold in pods of up to six seats.

Details of the changes were still being discussed and finalized Tuesday, with plans for some sections to return to standard configuration and full capacity, and some to retain distanced seating configurations. The Rays will not offer sections just for fans who say they are fully vaccinated, as some teams are doing, though without any way to enforce.

Under the Rays’ revised plan, the upper deck will again be closed; it had been reopened this season to allow for distanced seating in getting the capacity to 9,000. The Rays had decided going into the 2019 season to close the 300 level seating areas to create more of an intimate atmosphere by keeping fans in the lower bowl, which reduced overall capacity to 25,025. The party deck above leftfield will remain open.

The new policy will go into effect when the Rays return from their current road trip to open a five-game homestand against the Nationals and Orioles on June 8. Season ticket members will continue to have preferred access. Tickets already have been on sale under the old plan for games next week at the Trop against the Royals and Phillies.

The Rays only reached the 9,000 capacity once this season, with an announced crowd of 9,021 for the April 9 home opener against the Yankees. The next largest crowds came this past weekend against the Mets, when they drew 7,536 Saturday and 7,355 Sunday.

Also Tuesday:

⋅ Manager Kevin Cash said centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier, sidelined since May 9 with a left wrist sprain, was “very, very close” to returning to active duty and would not need a minor-league rehab assignment, which means he could be ready as soon as Wednesday.

⋅ Right-handed pitcher Sean Poppen was acquired from the Pirates for cash and assigned to Triple-A Durham. Poppen, 27, was designated for assignment last week; over parts of three seasons with the Pirates and Twins (2019-20) he has pitched in 13 big-league games, posting a 6.53 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 20 2/3 innings. He is 26-21, 3.39 in 85 minor-league games (72 starts).

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