SD 'extremely excited' for Opening Day fans
Anticipated 20 percent capacity to start, more as season progresses
The Padres expect fans to be able to attend games at 20 percent capacity by Opening Day, with the potential for full capacity at Petco Park later in the season, team president and CEO Erik Greupner said Tuesday.
Greupner noted that he expects the city of San Diego’s COVID-19 case rate to fall comfortably in the "red" tier by Opening Day, which, per state guidelines, would allow for approximately 10,000 fans at the start of the season.
"We can't wait to welcome our fans back home to Petco Park," Greupner said. "... I'm confident that when we re-open Petco Park on Opening Day it will be one of the safest places to be in San Diego."
As a result of the Padres' significant recent increase in season-ticket sales, it's unlikely that any single-game tickets will be on sale while San Diego remains in the "red" tier, Greupner said. The total number of season-ticket holders numbers sits above what the Padres expect their seating capacity to be.
"There's more excitement around this team going into a season than perhaps any Padres team ever," Greupner said. "It's an inflection point for us as a franchise. There's pent-up demand, because fans were not able to attend games in-person last year."
The Padres have given their season-ticket members the choice to opt out of their tickets for the season or portions of the season, with a deadline of Friday to do so. At that point, the Padres will be able to start finalizing plans for a 20-percent capacity stadium.
Fans will be seated in pods of up to six people and required to wear masks, with social distancing guidelines in place and at least six feet of separation from other pods. As such, fans will be spaced throughout the ballpark -- including demarcated sections at Gallagher Square, the park area beyond the outfield at Petco Park.
"We're going to use every inch of the ballpark to seat people," Greupner said, adding that a limited number of concessions will be available, with remote ordering and contactless payment.
The Padres will give priority to full- and half-season-ticket holders regarding seating assignments and access. If there is an overflow of partial season-ticket holders that takes the Padres beyond their allowed capacity number, Greupner said the team would use tenure to determine access to tickets.
When the Padres sent a survey to their members in February, Greupner said the team estimated a 70 percent opt-in rate, which could have allowed for the possibility of single-game ticket sales. But early results indicate a much higher percentage of people opting into their ticket plans – perhaps the result of positive trends in the city's COVID-19 response, Greupner said.
The Padres have structured a plan for ticket sales based around four segments of the season -- two month increments during the regular season, then the postseason. Greupner noted that those plans are always subject to change depending on government guidelines. But the club remains optimistic for full capacity later this summer.
"Eventually if conditions continue to improve and we reach a rate of vaccinations in the San Diego region and California as a whole ... I would anticipate we might even be at full capacity at some point in the season," Greupner said. "I think that's a very distinct possibility."
"I can't tell you when we're going to increase capacity from 20 percent. I also can't tell you exactly what percentages we'll hit as we go."
Understandably, those long-term details remain murky and are contingent upon a continued decrease in case rates and an increase in vaccinations. But after the Padres’ meteoric rise behind closed doors in 2020, they’re eager to open those doors to fans once again.
"It was a bittersweet season for us," Greupner said. "We broke through, playing winning baseball for the first time in a decade, making the playoffs for the first time in 14 years, winning the first ever playoff game and playoff series in Petco Park history.
"That was the sweet. The bitter was ... we didn't have anybody else in the ballpark, and we weren't able to share that with our fans. So we're extremely excited. We've been working for a long time to prepare for this day, and I think it will be the loudest 20-percent capacity crowd you've ever heard."