The Yankees are ready for Opening Day on Thursday afternoon when they face the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium. The Bronx Bombers want more than just a victory on the field.
For the first time since Oct. 18, 2019 -- when they were in the American Championship Series against the Astros -- the Yankees will welcome fans in the stands. Last season, the club played without fans because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“This journey to get to Thursday, our home opener, started more than a year ago,” said Doug Behar, the Yankees' senior vice president of stadium operations. “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.”
As many as 10,850 fans will be able to attend the first regular-season game of 2021. All fans are required to wear masks unless they are eating and drinking.
There will be social distancing throughout the ballpark in pods of two or four. Fans are encouraged to get to the stadium early. Gametime is at 1:05 p.m. ET. Yankees right-hander Gerrit Cole will be on the mound to start the game.
“There is a lot of excitement coming on Thursday,” Behar said. “It is Opening Day. It is Yankee Stadium. There is always something very special about that. We anticipate a good afternoon. The only thing we can’t control is the weather. We are hoping it cooperates.”
There is a testing requirement to get inside the stadium. Fans will have to show up with either a negative COVID test or proof of vaccination. Their temperature also will be checked.
Concession stands will be open, but there will be distancing requirements. The stadium is going cashless, and there will be cash-to-card machines -- like a reverse ATM -- in the stadium. To start the season, the stadium will not have vendors in the stands.
‘We’ll have markers and signage all over to help people understand where and how to do that,” Behar said. “But it should be a seamless, recognizable experience as they have had in the past.”
There is usually a pomp and circumstance before Opening Day, but that will be eliminated, according to Behar.
“That’s not allowed,” he said. “There are restrictions not only from the government, but legal restrictions. We feel that Opening Day at Yankee Stadium -- that in itself will create enough excitement.”
Behar can’t predict the future as far as adding more fans to the stadium, but for now, he says, fans attending Thursday’s game should be ready to enjoy the game in person.
“Everything we have set forth is tremendously important to us,” he said. “We recognize we are doing this for the first time. This is new for all of us. Patience and understanding will be at the forefront. Because we have been looking at this for the past 12, 13 months, we feel we are in the position to execute on those [things] the right way.”