California’s theme parks and outdoor sports stadiums can begin selling tickets to fans and customers once again with modifications, the state’s top public health official said Tuesday.
Both theme parks and stadiums will be allowed to resume selling tickets, provided that they sit in a county that has moved into Tier 3, or the orange tier, of the state’s coronavirus pandemic reopening plan.
“We’ve worked hard … with our partners, industry partners, labor partners, to come up with something that we believe at this time really supports the blueprint that we have put out, the slow, stringent approach,” state Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said.
Smaller theme parks — those with a maximum capacity of 15,000 people or fewer — will be allowed to admit 25 percent of their capacity or 500 customers, whichever is fewer.
They will also only be permitted to open outdoor rides and attractions, and ticket sales must be limited to residents of the theme park’s county.
Larger theme parks, such as Disneyland, will only be allowed to reopen, at 25 percent capacity, once their county has moved into the least-restrictive yellow tier, according to Ghaly.
Outdoor sports stadiums will be permitted to allow 20 percent of their maximum capacity once their county moves into the orange tier and 25 percent of that capacity in the yellow tier.
Ticket sales will also be restricted to people who live within a 120-mile radius of the stadium, and only professional sports will be allowed to include fans at any capacity.
Both theme parks and sports stadiums will be required to sell tickets exclusively online, in part to prevent excess interactions between employees and customers, and to make it easier to conduct contact tracing and screen attendees for coronavirus symptoms.
Theme parks have been one of the state’s sticking points in its tiered reopening plan, as Ghaly and Gov. Gavin Newsom have repeatedly received questions and criticism about the timeline for Disneyland and other similar venues resuming operations.
Those calls to reopen theme parks only got louder as other states reopened theme parks and California allowed certain businesses to resume operating indoors, let alone outdoors.
Ghaly suggested that theme parks and outdoor stadiums carry differing levels of viral transmission risk, as theme park attendees are generally more likely to come from many different locations that could all have varying levels of coronavirus case rates.
Sports stadiums, Ghaly said, are more likely to be populated by nearby residents who are fans of their local teams.
Stadiums also have assigned seating, making social distancing easier, and attendees are likely to only spend a few hours watching a sporting event as opposed to theme park visitors, who may spend multiple days at a park and interact with the surrounding community.
“I think about (stadiums) as controlled mixing,” Ghaly said. “Where we can actually work with our business partners to make sure people are coming in and out, staying with their cohort, their household, and not necessarily mixing with many others that they’re not used to being around.”
Sports stadiums in multiple other states have been letting in fans at limited capacities for several weeks, with attendance at NFL games as well as the portion of the MLB playoffs held in Texas.
In the Bay Area, the only teams likely to be affected by the new stadium guidance are the San Francisco 49ers and the San Jose Earthquakes, as the Golden State Warriors and San Jose Sharks both play in enclosed arenas and the Oakland Athletics and San Francisco Giants will not begin their next seasons until April 2021.
The 49ers’ home stadium, Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara County, would theoretically be able to host fans as soon as Nov. 5, when the team is slated to face the Green Bay Packers.
The 49ers have played their home games without fans since the team’s season began in September.
The Earthquakes, whose home stadium is in San Jose, would be able to host fans for the team’s final two regular season home games on Oct. 28 and Nov. 1. Earthquakes Stadium briefly hosted fans when the team’s season began in late February, just before the pandemic hit.
“We welcome our fans and their support of local businesses and vendors that are critical to our local economy, especially during these difficult times,” the 49ers said in a statement shortly after Ghaly announced the updated stadium guidance.
“Our organization will continue to collaborate with local public health officials to implement a plan that protects the health and wellness of all San Francisco 49ers and Levi’s Stadium employees, patrons and our community,” the team said.
While Santa Clara County entered the orange tier Oct. 13, the county’s Public Health Department quickly quashed any chance of Levi’s Stadium or Earthquakes Stadium hosting fans in the immediate future.
“As we see COVID-19 rates rising in states across the U.S., and as we enter the winter months when risk will increase, we cannot take chances with the health and wellbeing of our community and forfeit the many sacrifices that have been made to slow the spread of COVID-19,” the Public Health Department said in a statement.
In addition to stadiums, the county said theme parks would also not be allowed to reopen in the near future. California’s Great America, one of the county’s largest theme parks, already announced in August that it would not reopen for the remainder of the 2020 season.
Santa Clara County public health officials also indicated that ensuring local businesses and schools remain open holds a greater immediate importance than allowing fans to return to stadiums.