Fans at Blue Jays' first home game will have to follow health measures, mask requirements

The Toronto Blue Jays are returning home to play at the Rogers Centre with mask requirements, physical distancing measures, and cashless vendors to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Team inviting 250 front-line workers for each game between July 30 and Aug. 8

Ottawa approved the Jays' bid to return to Canada on Friday, granting the club a national interest travel exemption that will allow it to host games at Rogers Centre starting on July 30. (Mark Blinch/The Canadian Press )

There will be mask requirements, physical distancing and other stringent public health measures in place for fans when the Blue Jays come home for their first game back in Toronto on July 30.

The Jays, who are finally set to return after 670 days away from home soil due to COVID-19 restrictions, will host a maximum of 15,000 fans per game at Rogers Centre, with tickets going on sale on July 22. The stadium will follow the province's outdoor venue reopening guidelines.

Meanwhile, fans across the city and beyond are excited to finally catch a glimpse of Canada's only Major League Baseball team at home from the stands.

"Me and my friends will get some nose-bleeder seats, have some drinks, and cheer for them," Marisa Fong said. "Having that in-person experience will be reawakening."

Fong and tens of thousands of other Jays fans have been deprived of that "in-person experience" ever since the pandemic forced the United States and Canada to close the border last year. The Jays played last season's 60-game condensed schedule out of Buffalo, N.Y., and started this year's campaign in Dunedin, Fla., before relocating to Buffalo.

Thomas Riley is in Toronto for a couple of weeks, and happy to catch his favourite team in live action.

"It'll be cool to have the atmosphere of all the people together and watching the game," he said.

The Toronto Blue Jays are returning to Rogers Centre, seen above, after playing 'home games' this season in Florida and Buffalo, N.Y. The seating capacity is more than 50,000 for baseball but due to public health measures, only 15,000 fans will be admitted. (Carlos Osorio/The Canadian Press)

The Jays are also inviting 250 front-line workers for each game for the first home stand.

Seating for the 15,000 fans will be split, with two-thirds designated for standard traditional seating, and one-third designated for physically distanced pods. That configuration will run for the first 10 home games between July 30 and August 8.

Season ticket holders get first access to seats

Because of the limited capacity, only the 100-level and 200-level seats will be open. The 500-level will not be available for the first homestand. Season ticket holders for 2021 and 2022 will receive first access to tickets before the general public sale on Thursday, July 22 at 10 a.m.

Christine Robertson, the team's director of fan services, says spectators will receive a notice about what to expect before the game.

"We're all missing a good ballpark hot dog," she said. "The key focus is to make sure fans feel comfortable."

There will be a number of health and safety protocols to follow, including mandatory face coverings for fans aged two and older except when actively eating or drinking in ticketed seats. Tickets will only be issued via mobile, and payments will be cashless, to reduce contact.

Fans will be screened for symptoms prior to entry, and there will be physical distance markers around the ballpark. Lounges and suites will also open at limited capacity.

Some fans remain hesitant, but are relieved to see there will be stringent health protocols.

"There's still some hesitancy, myself, my friends, family," said Jays fan April Whitzman. "But the end is nigh, it seems that way. It's still important to stay masked and follow the protocols."

"I'm not sure how quickly I'll run to the dome, but it's going to be a sight to see on July 30," she added.

The Jays were playing in Buffalo under COVID-19 restrictions for the first half of the season.

"To have the true meaning of what a home game means, what it means to be home, knowing that's two weeks away, it's an incredible relief," said Mark Shapiro, president of the team.

"I'm excited for our fans to see this team, and I'm excited for these players to see what we know and feel is so special about Toronto and Canada."

With files from Dan Taekema and Ali Raza


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