Nearly 40,000 fans sit side-by-side at Texas Rangers home opener

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Monday, April 5, 2021
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It's a first for the U.S. during the pandemic. No social distancing, a packed venue, and many fans among the tens of thousands without a mask at a Texas Rangers game.

ARLINGTON, Texas (KTRK) -- In what can be considered a first for major league sports in the U.S. during the pandemic, the Texas Rangers held their home opener Monday allowing a full-capacity crowd to sit side-by-side.

Due to the state of Texas lifting last month coronavirus protections, including those limiting capacity at businesses and doing away with a mask mandate, the Rangers were able to open their 1-year-old Globe Life Field venue to the full 40,000-fan capacity.

ABC News reports fewer than 1,000 tickets were still available for the Rangers' series-opening game against the Toronto Blue Jays.

There were some rules and protections put into place. Fans were told to wear masks unless eating or drinking. Concessions are cashless, and staff were told to clean surfaces as often as possible.

Still, images taken from inside the ballpark and during the game's regional telecast showed many fans not eating or drinking opting not to wear masks.

Nevertheless, fans at the game told ABC News there was nothing stopping them from being at the game, and most had no concerns over virus risks.

One person used the packed ballpark to support the state's efforts to return to normalcy despite the pandemic still raging.

"Texas is leading the way," the fan said.

"We're very confident we won't be a super-spreader event," said Neil Leibman, the Rangers' CEO and president of business operations, said last month shortly after Gov. Greg Abbott lifted COVID-19 protections.. "With all the protocols that we're following, we'll be extremely responsible and provide a very comfortable environment for somebody to enjoy the game without worrying we're going to be a spreader event."

SEE ALSO: Gov. Abbott's order relaxing rules stirs fear of another COVID-19 spike

Leibman said MLB allows teams to operate under local capacity policy, as long as adequate protection for players is in place. The Rangers are installing plexiglass barriers on top of the dugouts and along the back and sides of the bullpens.

The Houston Astros will operate with 50% capacity to start the season.

The Rangers plan to create "distanced seating" sections in certain locations of the stadium, with more space between occupied seats for all games after the home opener.

SEE ALSO: UFC sets eyes on Texas after Gov. Abbott lifts COVID-19 restrictions, mask mandate

The Associated Press contributed to this report.