Padres, Legoland and Disneyland benefit from new state reopening guidance

This scene should change for the 2021 Padres season with new guidelines that apply to all outdoor sporting venues Apr. 1.
This scene should change for the 2021 Padres season due to new attendance guidelines that apply to all outdoor sporting venues Apr. 1.
(K.C. Alfred/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

State announces changes will take effect April 1


There was bound to be even more dancing in the Padres dugout Friday as the state modified its COVID-19 reopening restrictions, clearing the way for fans in the stands on opening day.

And it wasn’t just Major League Baseball that got a boost on a day when San Diego County surpassed 1 million vaccine doses delivered. Tweaks to the state’s reopening blueprint now allow outdoor live events with assigned seating, whether stadiums or concert venues, and amusement parks to reopen at limited capacities as early as April 1.

Sports and entertainment locations may fill up to 20 percent of their seats, and theme parks, including Legoland and Disneyland, can admit 15 percent of their usual crowds provided their home county has made it to the second-most restrictive red tier of the reopening plan.

One of the restrictions announced Friday has to do with who can buy tickets to socially distanced and masked games, concerts and theme park visits. In the red tier, those privileges are reserved for California residents. Officials said that venue operators can sell only to those with California addresses.

At the moment, San Diego County remains in the most-restrictive purple tier, held back by a score of 10.8 coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents. The limit for the red tier is seven cases per 100,000, but that limit will increase to 10 once the state has delivered at least 2 million vaccine doses in 400 ZIP codes deemed to be the most socioeconomically disadvantaged in California. San Diego would need to post a red tier-qualifying score for two consecutive weeks to exit its current purple purgatory.

Organizations welcomed the changes Friday even if it is not yet certain when or if they will take effect.

In a short written statement, the Padres front office was optimistic that local case trends will fall far enough to turn the town red before the team’s home opener on the first day of April.

“We expect that Padres fans will be able to support our team in-person beginning on Opening Day, and our players are eager to have them back at Petco Park,” the statement said.

Season ticket holders, the team added, will “receive priority access” to all regular season home games in 2021 with communications forthcoming on how the Padres plan to divvy up such limited seating capacity among their most loyal fans.

Kurt Stocks, President of Legoland California Resort in Carlsbad, said he is “anxious to bring our team back to work and hire more people in preparation for a spring opening” though it’s impossible to set a specific date until the region makes it out of the red tier. A spokesperson said that opening at 15 percent capacity will be doable if and when the local tier status changes.

Disneyland Resort president Ken Potrock called the developments encouraging, expressing pleasure that “theme parks now have a path toward reopening this spring, getting thousands of people back to work and greatly helping neighboring businesses and our entire community.”

While Disney did cite its “safety protocols already implemented around the world,” and an eagerness to “welcome our guests back,” no firm opening date was forthcoming.

Likewise, there was no indication of what Disneyland at 15 percent capacity might look like nor whether the park plans to increase prices to help defray the expense of operating with much, much smaller crowds than it is designed to serve.

Sports and live entertainment venues will be capped to 25 percent occupancy of suites with members of no more than three households attending with advanced reservations required and primarily in-seat concessions. Concourse sales will not be allowed in the red tier. Amusement parks can only sell tickets online, must sell to small groups no larger than 10 representing no more than three different households and must limit indoor rides and other attractions to 15 percent with time restrictions. Indoor dining will not be allowed. All venues must test their workers weekly.

Parks would be able to move up to 25 percent capacity in places that achieve the orange tier, which requires a case rate no greater than 3.9 per 100,000, moving to 35 percent capacity in the yellow tier when case rates drop below 1 per 100,000. Live entertainment venue capacities jump to 33 percent in orange and 67 percent in yellow.

For now, though, getting out of purple is the key in San Diego County.

Ten cases per 100,000 residents equates to averaging about 337 new cases per day, though the number could be a bit higher than that due to bonuses the region usually gets for performing more coronavirus tests than the statewide average. Lately, though, the arrow has been pointing in the wrong direction with 499 new cases announced in Friday’s daily COVID-19 tracking report and totals of 508 and 352 listed Thursday and Wednesday.

Even if the region does not escape the purple tier by April 1, a small number of fans will be allowed to attend any outdoor sports or live entertainment venue, with attendance capped at 100 or fewer. In both the red and purple tiers, social distancing and mask wearing will be required of all visitors.