Texas Rangers target capacity crowd for MLB season opener

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Los Angeles (AFP)

The Texas Rangers are set to become the first major US professional sports team to welcome back a capacity crowd since the Covid-19 pandemic after announcing ticketing plans for the upcoming baseball season on Wednesday.

In a move which comes hard on the heels of Texas Governor Greg Abbott's order to fully reopen the state, the Rangers said their Globe Life Field would operate at 100% capacity for two exhibition games against Milwaukee on March 29-30 and the season opener against the Toronto Blue Jays on April 5.

The decision makes the Rangers the first sports franchise in the United States to make full unrestricted seating available to fans since the pandemic shut down sport on March 11 last year.

The NBA, National Football League, Major League Baseball and National Hockey League have either played games in empty stadiums or with drastically reduced capacities during the pandemic era.

The 40,300-capacity Globe Life Field staged last year's World Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Tampa Bay Rays, allowing around 11,400 fans into the stadium.

"The Rangers are encouraged that the Governor's Office has given clearance for us to fully open Globe Life Field at the start of the 2021 Major League Baseball season," Rangers chief executive Neil Leibman said in a statement.

All fans attending the games against the Brewers and Blue Jays would be required to wear masks except when eating and drinking.

After the home opener, the stadium will operate at a reduced capacity with special "distanced seating" areas available.

"We will require all those who enter Globe Life Field to wear a mask or face covering, and are working with Major League Baseball on some additional protocols required for player health and safety," Leibman said.

"We will continue to monitor developments and implement the necessary public health measures. We are excited that Rangers fans will finally be able to experience all that Globe Life Field has to offer."