It’s been 18 months since the Phillies last hosted fans inside Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies’ streak of fanless games will (finally) come to an end when the team hosts the Atlanta Braves on Opening Day.
Phillies Nation sat down with Phillies director of security and operations Sal DeAngelis to answer some questions fans may have as they return to the ballpark. The Q&A with DeAngelis below covers the food and drink policy, Ashburn Alley, gate openings, air horns and much more.
Q: Are there any significant changes to the security process? Do fans have to pass a temperature screening?
A: There is no temperature screening for our fans. Our staff on a daily basis will go through a temperature screen prior to them coming to work. And it’s also part of the MLB protocols for our tier one and tier two personnel.
But as far as security changes for our fans, a few things have changed. Most notably with metal detection. I shouldn’t have called it metal detection, because that’s not fair. If you’re talking about it more holistically, we’re talking about fan screening. So the first thing is we’ve eliminated the ability for our fans to bring in bags or backpacks, with some exceptions. But what this has done now is two things. One, it [expedites the process]. The most time-consuming thing at a metal detector is the actual bag inspection. This will eliminate some of that lead time to get into the ballpark.
The second thing it will do is it reduces touchpoints between the security staff and the fans. So our security guards aren’t touching hundreds of bags a night. And conversely, a fan isn’t getting their bag touched by a security guard who has touched 100, 200 bags a night. There are some exceptions to the bag restrictions. We will still allow bags for medical needs, diaper bags and single compartment purses for those fans that have those when they’re coming to the ballpark.
Now we understand some people aren’t going to see this new policy right away. They’re going to forget. They may not have seen our press releases, and they’re still going to bring their bag to the ballpark. Or maybe they’re taking the subway or Uber and they have to carry their bag with them. So we will offer on Citizens Bank Way the ability for our fans to store their bags in a locker system, which will be staffed by a company called Bin Box. So for $10, our fans can store their bags outside of the ballpark prior to approaching the stadium.
Q: When do gates open and are fans advised to arrive a little bit earlier than they normally would?
A: So with 8,800 fans allowed at this point, gates are only going to open an hour prior to first pitch. Now we are fortunate because we will have the ability to be flexible as well. So if we do see that there are fans waiting outside before that hour, we’ll be able to open up for them. It’s not only just an hour for gates, but we’re not opening up every metal detector or every screening lane for that matter as we would have if we have a sold-out event.
Q: For egress, the team is opening the right field and center field gate. Are those gates also available for fans to come in?
A: For right field and center field, we don’t accept any tickets at those gates. So we’re going to open those and staff them as we get closer to the end of the game. So we just have more areas for our fans to leave. I would also throw in the west suite and club entrance to that mix, even though we’re not opening it for ingress. We will open those doors at the end of our game so people can leave through multiple gates.
Q: What went into altering the food and beverage policy? And for example, can a fan bring in a sealed plastic bottle and a hoagie to the stadium?
A: Absolutely. We are not eliminating the ability for our fans to stop at their favorite convenience store and pick up a hoagie and a drink. Even if they had a disposable shopping bag, like a plastic bag you would get a Wawa or 7-11, we would allow them to bring it in.
Per DeAngelis: “Any sealed, plastic, non-alcoholic beverage will be permitted. Water fountains will remain inactive for the foreseeable future.”
Q: Will air horns be allowed in?
A: We’re still talking with the Phandemic Krew on what is and isn’t allowed in. We’re working out their parameters still.
Q: For fans who enter the stadium with a medical or diaper bag, or any other bag that is an exception to the rule, do they have to enter at a certain gate?
A: No. They don’t have to enter a certain gate. Our staff has been trained on what to do from our orientation classes preseason. They can go in at any gate and any screening lane.
Q: Will Pass and Stow be open? And in general, how will alcohol be served?
A: As of right now, eating and drinking is only allowed in your ticketed seat and it’s the only time you’re allowed to remove your mask when you’re inside the facility. So you’re not able to eat and drink in those areas right now like Pass and Stow or Shake Shack, even though you’ll be able to go in and purchase food and alcohol in those places. You won’t be able to enjoy it in those spaces.
Q: As far as batting practice goes, a lot of fans like to come early and linger in the right and left-field seats to watch. Will they be allowed to do that this year?
A: It’s actually a little tricky because our gates are only an hour. You’re only going to catch the back end of batting practice, so only a few minutes.
Q: Would you encourage fans to go straight to their ticket seats and try not to watch batting practice from the outfield?
Yes.Embed from Getty Images
Q: Are there certain areas of the ballpark that are usually available to fans that are off-limits? Maybe the 300 level in right field?
A: So right now for that area, we don’t have tickets being sold (pavilion level). It’ll be closed down for fan access. In the future, if restrictions get eased, maybe that’s an area that we open up first for more tickets but as of right now, it’ll be closed.
Q: Will Ashburn Alley be fully open?
A: Ashburn Alley between the foul poles of the outfield will be completely open. So all of your favorites that you’ve gotten over the years, Chickie’s & Pete’s, Bull’s BBQ, all of that will be open.
The Yard will be open with some modifications. The Wiffle ball field, Citizens Fan Field, will be open. However, we will not have any fielders, so fans won’t be able to take the field. They will be able to bat and one of our staff members will pitch to them. The Phanatic hot dog launcher will be open with sanitizing after every use. The other two attractions within The Yard, the rock climb and speed pitch, will not be open. The Phanatic Fun Zone (near the first base gate) is also closed for now.
Q: Are there any limits to the number of people that can congregate at one time in certain areas, specifically Ashburn Alley?
A: Look, our ballpark has a lot of great attractions and we know people are going to want to go to them. Our staff has been instructed to remind our fans of social distancing practices. You’re not going to be able to walk too far without seeing one of our stickers on the ground like everybody is used to seeing in a store at this point. So if we see something that is getting a little too out of hand, we would address it, but our fans haven’t been able to watch baseball now for a year inside the ballpark. And we feel that a lot of them are going to be very in tune with the game as well.
Q: Can fans be near the bullpen?
A: That’s one of the areas that Major League Baseball has asked us to create a little bit of a standoff. And our fans will see that when they get here and it’s simply bike rack that will create at least six feet of standoff in some spaces that surround the bullpen. So you may not be able to see directly into the bullpen as you were able to in years past.
Q: But fans can still heckle from a distance?
A: As long as it gets in the other pitcher’s head. That’s all that matters.
Q: How will the mask policy be enforced? Do you have a system of how you warn guests and if you’re a fan that just doesn’t want to comply, what will happen to you?
A: So, the mask policy. It’s our No. 1 thing right now. Everything we do from a PR and marketing strategy, we talk about the mask up policy. It’s mask up over your nose and mouth, except when actively eating or drinking in your ticketed seat. Other than the marketing and PR strategy that we’re doing, signage at the ballpark, both digital and static. Our staff have all been trained in it. It’s been our mantra now here for the last two months leading up to the season. All of our staff, full-time and part time, know about this policy.
Our game day staff, which we’ve been doing orientations for over the last few weeks, know what the expectations are. Not just for them to wear the mask, but our fans as well. And we think our fans are hearing this point as well. One of the hardest things with wearing a mask is giving verbal direction to someone. You’re muffled. They can’t hear you. Maybe they have a hearing issue where they’re used to reading lips as well. The mask that our staff might be wearing can stifle that a little bit.
What we’re giving our employees, every employee as part of their uniform. It looks like a fan you would use in the summer and it has the Phanatic with the mask up logo, please wear over your nose and mouth, that our staff can use as a non-verbal communication with our fans. It’s not that they are putting this fan in front of their face aggressively. It’s a simple wave of it to ensure that our fans are reminded of this policy.
For fans that don’t want to wear the mask when they’re inside the ballpark, we will address those situations when they’re here because we need everybody to cooperate for us to have baseball games at Citizens Bank Park.
Q: For the game day staff, how will the game day experience differ for them? In general, how will their normal day differ from back in 2019 when they last worked?
A: A couple things have changed. We have given them closer parking to eliminate an employee shuttle. We are using a cohort system for our staff because with 8,800 fans, you’re not using your entire staff. We have taken away the break room temporarily. We’ve taken all the tables and chairs out of the break room, but we’ve given them an alternate outdoor space for them to take their breaks.
Listen, things are going to be different this year. When we talk in these orientation classes, we talk about patience and adaptability. Nothing is the same as 2019. We want them to have an enjoyable experience when they’re at work, but we want them to be patient and realize that they may have to adapt to things that have changed over the last year and a half.
Q: For Phillies fans who would love to come back to the ballpark, but just don’t feel that it’s safe enough yet, do you have a message for them?
I would tell them that the Phillies, as an organization, have been researching best practices since March of last year. And we’ve pulled those best practices from not only the sports and entertainment industry, but major companies around the world on what they’re doing to mitigate the risk of COVID-19. We’ve taken all those and we’ve made our own policies and procedures here.
The other thing I would say is that our employees have just bought in completely. Gameday staff, full-time staff, they have all bought in and realized what’s at stake here. And we want to have baseball games at Citizens Bank Park with fans. We want it to be the most enjoyable experience while still being safe.
For more info, visit phillies.com/fanhealth
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