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Brewers get OK to allow fans at games in Milwaukee this season
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Brewers get OK to allow fans at games in Milwaukee this season

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MILWAUKEE — American Family Field won’t be empty on Opening Day.

The City of Milwaukee approved a request from the Milwaukee Brewers to allow fans into home games this season starting with the April 1 season opener against the Minnesota Twins.

The Brewers submitted a 350-page plan to the city last month requesting permission to allow up to 35% capacity at the 41,900-seat stadium. The city instead approved 25% capacity, with fans being seated in pods spread out around the facility to ensure social distancing.

“We did a tour (of the ballpark) with (city of Milwaukee officials) in which they had quite a number of representatives here and asked some great questions,” Brewers president of business operations Rick Schlesinger said Thursday. “They gave us some great feedback. ... If the metrics in the city and surrounding region continue to be good .. they are open and interested in trying to increase that capacity number.”

The Brewers’ plan also included a request to allow tailgating, but that portion of the application was denied, at least to start the season.

“It’s difficult to enforce how people participate in tailgating,” Schlesinger said. “A small group of four people with a grill on the back of their truck is not a problem, but four can become 40 and 40 can become 80. What we’re trying to avoid is close contact with folks in an environment we can’t really control.”

That restriction could be lifted, as well as the 25% cap on attendance, if the rate of infection continues to drop, the rate of vaccination increases and the restrictions and regulations currently in place are observed.

“If we follow the rules and put ourselves in a good situation, I think that’s an opportunity for us to go to the Health Department and say that our fans can follow the rules and we’d like to see an increase in our capacity,” Schlesinger said.

Unlike the NBA and NHL, which used controlled bubble settings to complete their seasons in 2020, Major League Baseball allowed teams to play games in their home stadiums, though fans were not permitted to attend games until the NL Championship Series and World Series, which were held in Arlington, Texas.

Teams used piped-in noise to help create a more normal atmosphere, but the absence of actual fans and the energy those fans create was hard to ignore and made a challenging season all the more difficult.

“We were all taught a lesson last year,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “It’s community. That’s what’s special about it and we missed it. We’re getting a piece of it back. We’re not getting the whole thing back, but we’re getting a piece of that community back. That’s really special. It creates these magical moments which are the reasons why we love sports.”

The last time the Brewers played a home game in front of fans was Sept. 22, 2019, when they beat Pittsburgh 4-3. They’ve gotten a taste of normalcy this spring, playing in front of a limited number of fans during Cactus League games, including at their own American Family Fields of Phoenix, where they’ve been allowed to admit up to 23% capacity of the 10,000-seat facility.

Those attending games in Phoenix are required to wear masks at all times unless actively eating or drinking and are prohibited from bringing in large bags or backpacks, with the exception of medical supplies or diaper bags.

Similar rules will be in place in Milwaukee, along with restrictions on food and beverage carry-ins. The team also will utilize digital ticketing and expand its contactless concession capabilities.

“We’re doing every thing we can to be contactless because it’s efficient and safe,” Schlesinger said.

Demand for spring training tickets was high and 13 of the 14 home dates on Milwaukee’s spring schedule have already sold out.

Schlesinger is expecting similar demand for tickets to games in Milwaukee, with information on how to obtain those tickets becoming available to season ticket and suite holders starting next week and individual ticket sales information to follow.

“The process is starting now,” Schlesinger said, adding that the team expects to have single-game tickets available for a “vast majority” of games after Opening Day.

Here’s everything you need to know as the Milwaukee Brewers kick off spring training in Arizona


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