The Minnesota Twins are using spring training as a testing ground for bringing fans back to Target Field — and both team and state leaders are expressing optimism about the prospect of making it work.
Why it matters: The Twins lost out on more than $100 million in revenue during last year's shortened season played in an empty stadium, according to one Forbes estimate.
- Game-day crowds could also provide a much-needed boost in business for struggling bars and restaurants.
What's happening: The team is working with Maplewood-based 3M to develop new safety protocols, including cleaning practices and plans for getting fans in and out.
- For spring training in Fort Myers, Florida, the team is requiring fans to wear face coverings, except when eating or drinking. Seating is based on socially distanced "pods" of groups of two or four, per MLB.com.
Driving the news: A proposal submitted to Gov. Tim Walz would allow the Twins to welcome up to 10,000 ticket-holders — about 25% capacity — during the regular season, per Fox9.
- In order for that to happen, Walz would need to lift or change restrictions on large gatherings, including sporting events.
What they're saying: Twins vice president of operations Matt Foy told Fox9 he's "confident we can open the season with some fans in the building." And a Walz spokesperson tells us the governor is "eager to get back to Target Field," though he didn't commit to opening day.
- "If Minnesotans continue to work hard to keep the virus under control while vaccinations ramp up, we’re optimistic we can get fans back in the stands in some capacity this season."
Between the lines: With cases and hospitalizations remaining at manageable levels and vaccinations picking up, we seem to be on the right track.
- Even Anthony Fauci says there's a "pretty good chance" of a full MLB season with limited fans if cases continue to drop.
What's next: The new game-day protocols will get their first test when the Twins face off against the Boston Red Sox in Florida on Sunday.
- The regular season home opener, against the Seattle Mariners, is scheduled for April 8.
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