The Atlanta Braves announced the removal of all attendance limits for home games beginning on May 7, the first team in Major League Baseball to remove attendance caps on a permanent basis this season. With the decision, the Braves will open to the full capacity of Truist Park, which is listed at 41,084.
“We have had great success welcoming our fans back safely to Truist Park,” Braves President and CEO Derek Schiller said in a statement. “Our outdoor environment (and) the demand from our season-ticket holders and fans to watch us play in person, plus safety measures which are in place, make it feel that now is the right time to get back to full capacity at Truist Park.”
Most Major League Baseball teams have been allowing a range of attendance between 20-50 percent of full capacity thus far in 2021. These capacity limits are largely driven by local authorities, but many franchises have also been hesitant to reopen to full capacity even in states or cities which have largely allowed unfettered reopening to occur. The Texas Rangers, for example, had a full capacity crowd for opening day, but have since scaled things back to allow for social distancing.
Public health authorities have continued to express skepticism regarding the wisdom of full reopening before vaccination efforts gain wider purchase, including in Georgia.
“The best thing for me to say about this announcement is it’s ill-considered, but it seems to be a very dangerous thing to do because we are on a downward trend and now is not the time to let up,” said Dr. Richard Rothenberg, an infectious disease expert at Georgia State University.
Rothenberg said he understands people, over a year into the pandemic, “are really sick of the disease, and just feel like ‘I am done with this,’” but he worries the return to full capacity will lead to an increase in cases and only delay getting the pandemic under control.
Despite that, reopening efforts appear to be gaining steam across the country. UFC 261 was the first full capacity indoor crowd since March 2020 just last week, and New York is planning on accelerating its timetable for a full reopening in the summer.
Other Atlanta sports franchises are joining with the Braves in plans to welcome fans back, with Atlanta United (MLS) and the Falcons also expressing their intentions to reopen at full capacity.
“We are excited to bring our fans back to Mercedes-Benz Stadium,” says Steve Cannon, chief executive officer of Falcons and United parent company AMB Sports and Entertainments. “Given the increased opportunity for Georgians to be vaccinated, the abundant health protocols we have in place at the stadium and the interest from our season-ticket members, we felt that now is the right time to reopen the stadium in full capacity. … We will continue to follow the necessary precautions to give fans a safe and clean environment.”