COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Baseball in Columbus is officially back.
The Clippers will open their exhibition schedule on Friday night at Huntington Park.
With fans expected for the first time since 2019, team officials are opening up on what kind of changes are being made to protect those heading to the park.
“It will be good to have baseball back, it will be good to have fans in the stands,” admits Clippers President and GM Ken Schnacke.
It’s been more than a year-and-a-half since the cracks off bats, and the roars from fans have echoed throughout Huntington Park.
“It’s been difficult because you can’t plan for this moment, and this moment changes every day,” says Schnacke.
But after months of planning and re-planning, fans should expect a number of changes inside the park, as the Clippers open their exhibition schedule with up to 1,000 fans in attendance.
“I will ask the fans to be patient, because the in-game experience will not be what we’re all used to,” Schnacke warns.
The team will seat fans in socially distanced pods of no more than ten people, standing drinks rails will be off limits to spectators, and sanitizing stations will be placed throughout the park.
Mask and social distancing requirements will be enforced as well.
“We are doing everything we can to keep them safe, but I also realize keeping someone safe is an individual decision,” Schnacke says.
With the vaccinated population growing, the Clippers plan to gradually increase attendance throughout the homestand, hoping to slowly add in more entertainment elements in the process.
“We hope to keep adding as we go along. So, this weekend, very limited. Hopefully, the following weekend, once we’ve gotten through six or seven games, we’ll start to increase things,” Schnacke describes. “It’ll seem great to some of the players who have played for no fans the past year.”
And as the team prepares for their return to the field, America’s pastime could also signal a step in a return to normal.
“We all need to help people get back to a place where they can get away from their troubles and concerns and have some quality family time,” pleads Schnacke.
In addition to COVID precautions, fans will also notice several new stadium renovations made last year that they haven’t been able to showcase yet.
With more than $1 million in upgrades, the team expanded the scoreboard, updated LED lights throughout the park, and also extended the protective net all the way down the first and third base lines to keep fans safe.