ARLINGTON, Texas - The Texas Rangers held the first full-capacity professional sports event of the COVID-19 pandemic on Monday.
It was the first home game for the team with fans at the new Globe Life Field and it was also the first time attendance restrictions were not in effect for any major sporting event in the United States.
The game was declared a sellout, with 38,238 people in the stands, the Rangers announced.
"Been waiting for a while, we are fired up and ready to go," said fan Lane Smith.
The 50th season in Arlington for the franchise came with the traditional pomp and circumstance associated with the home opener.
"I was here in 1994 when the other ballpark opened so this is my streak except for last year," said fan Christopher Shaw.
The decision by the Rangers to host a full capacity stadium was widely criticized by health officials and even President Joe Biden. He called the decision "not responsible" in an interview last week.
"After being safe for a year, to be in a large crowd, it’s just a little nervous," said fan Carmen Smith.
"Yes there are some mild concerns, but it seems as if people are being safe, and we are being as safe as we can be," said Tommy Ware.
The team said masks and social distancing in common areas would still be enforced and concessions were also cashless. But as the game got underway, mask usage was minimal by fans in the seating bowl.
The team said it opted for full capacity when Gov. Greg Abbott lifted restrictions on Texas businesses regarding the number of customers allowed at any one time.
"We waited for one year to open this business with Rangers fans in it. Certainly excited when the governor issued the executive order on March 2 to give us that capability," said Rob Matwick, the Rangers executive vice president of ballpark operations. "When we found out that would be the opportunity we certainly look forward to welcoming as many fans as we can this season."
For the rest of the home games this season, the team said it will sell as many tickets as it can. There will be a "socially distanced" section of seats in the upper left field area. But attendance after the home opener is expected to vary widely.