CLEVELAND, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – Ohio governor Mike DeWine is considering allowing 30% capacity in open air stadiums this spring for Major and Minor League Baseball and Major League Soccer.
DeWine has already spoken with officials from the Cleveland Indians, Cincinnati Reds and Columbus Crew about their safety plans and expects to speak with minor league teams this week the governor said Monday.
A formal announcement from DeWine is expected to come on Thursday.
“The target figure that we think we’ll be able to start with is 30%,” DeWine told reporters during his COVID-19 briefing.
Masking and social distancing will continue to be enforced much like it is at Cavs games and was for the Browns, Bengals and Columbus Crew in the fall.
“What we have told them is we want to see your plan,” DeWine said adding that local and county health departments will also review the safety plans.
DeWine’s plan would allow the Indians to potentially host approximately 10,500 fans based on Progressive Field’s maximum normal capacity of 35,000.
DeWine cautioned he may have to pull back on the 30% due to the COVID-19 variant, which health experts are warning “could become dominant” in the state of Ohio by late March.
“We don’t really know what’s going to happen after that,” DeWine said. “What we hope is we start at 30% and go from there but the caution that I conveyed [to the teams] we don’t know about this variant. We don’t know what it means. We don’t know what the spread is going to be.
“We’re optimistic. We’re looking at a summer where more and more people are going to be vaccinated every day and we’re mask-wearing inside a ballpark.”
The Browns and Bengals were allowed 6,000 fans for the first two games of the NFL season in the fall before capacity was permitted to double for the remainder of the season. DeWine also granted a variance to teams for the 10 p.m. statewide curfew that was in place at the time, citing the venues as much safer and controlled environments.
“We looked at what happened with the Browns and the Bengals, we felt they did a good job,” DeWine said. “We think that with what we know about masks and the power of masks now plus the vaccine we felt we could start at 30%, with the one exception – the dark cloud out there – is the variant. We don’t know how it’s going to impact it and I told [the teams] that. That could totally change the ballgame.”
The Cavaliers were recently granted an increase for fan attendance at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse to 2,720 per game, including suites.
The Mid-American Conference will host that same number of fans for the semifinals and finals of their annual men’s and women’s basketball tournaments in Cleveland next month while keeping the first two days closed to the public.
Nationwide Arena in Columbus, home to the Blue Jackets, will be allowed 10% capacity or 1,953 fans starting March 2.