Gov. Charlie Baker on Thursday is expected to take the first step in allowing fans to return to Massachusetts sports venues.
Baker has scheduled a 1 p.m. ET press conference, where he is expected to announce the reopening of of “large venues … that accommodate more than 5,000 people, on March 22 with rules for reduced capacity,” according to The Boston Globe.
Such venues include Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox, and TD Garden, where the Boston Bruins and Boston Celtics have been playing without fans since their seasons began.
The list would also include Gillette Stadium, where the New England Patriots played in front of empty seats for the entire 2020 season.
Boston follows New York, which reopened select venues in the state at 10 percent capacity earlier this year. The Buffalo Bills were the first to welcome back fans in January for their home playoff games, and New York City recently began allowing the New York Knicks and New York Rangers to each admit 2,000 fans per home game to Madison Square Garden.
The news comes at the perfect time for the Red Sox, who are scheduled to host the Baltimore Orioles for Opening Day on April 1. The team did not immediately announce its reopening plans, but officials have hinted for months that continued safety precautions such as mask-wearing and touchless payments may remain in some capacity for the foreseeable future.
It was not immediately known precisely at what percentage of capacity Baker’s new rules would cap attendance. The Tennessee Titans, one of the first pro teams to readmit fans during the COVID-19 pandemic, opened Nissan Stadium at 10 percent capacity last fall before gradually increasing to 21 percent — the CDC-mandated maximum — by November.