First pitch for the Mariners’ regular season is on the horizon, but T-Mobile park will look a lot different this year. Washington state recently approved sports venues to reopen at 25 percent capacity, which means that the capacity crowd for Opening Day April 1 versus the San Francisco Giants will be around 9,000 (it’s a sell out). COVID-related precautions at the stadium include a ban on all bags, digital tickets to reduce contact between fans and staff, and seating “pods” limited to 2, 4, or 6 people — and the food experience is getting a significant safety overhaul.
For starters, there will be no “beer here” chatter in the crowd. All food and drinks must be purchased at one of the fixed kiosks and counters throughout the stadium concourse levels, since sales are prohibited the stands. The vendors on the concourses will also have plexiglass barriers, in addition to cashless payment systems, and must provide takeout containers for all items. All food and drink areas plan to be sanitized constantly, and staff must stay six feet apart.
Servers in the premium seating areas will have face shields and double masks, and the menus will display QR codes for contactless ordering. Everyone two years of age or older must wear masks in the stadium at all times no matter where they sit, except when eating or drinking. And while walking around the concourse, the Mariners urge fans to keep it moving — no lingering to get a better glimpse of the action. Booze cutoffs will stay the same, however (the start of the eighth inning). More T-Mobile Park regulations can be found here.
Food and drink selections will be a bit more limited overall than usual: around 48 vendors total, versus a number that has approached 100 in the past. Among them are returning favorites (such as Lil’ Woody’s, Ballard Pizza Company, and Fuku), plus a handful of anticipated newcomers. Popular ice cream shop Salt & Straw will make its T-Mobile Park debut at the 100-level and feature the shop’s Creepy Crawly Critters flavor. And there are some items that were planned last season, pre-pandemic, that fans can look out for now, such as the Marco Pollo, a spicy shredded chicken sandwich named after M’s pitcher Marco Gonzales. Meagan Murray, general manager of Centerplate (the Mariners’ concession company) tells Eater Seattle there will be a “phased approach” to opening up more options as the season goes on.
With COVID cases ticking up in King County of late, health officials are concerned about the steady reopening of activities, and live sports with fans in the stands is a risk. While many other stadiums across the country have opened to fans, the Mariners’ Opening Day will be the first time Seattle will give it a try for a major sports team since the early days of the pandemic (throughout most of 2020, the M’s, Seahawks, Storm, and Sounders either played in bubbles or had no fans in the stands). One development that could help ease some concerns for vendors: food service workers will be eligible to receive vaccines March 31, right before the season’s start.