NEW DETAILS: Dragons fans’ experience will be different this season — yet familiar

New signage and COVID-19 safety features are set for opening day at Day Air Field. JIM NOELKER/STAFF
New signage and COVID-19 safety features are set for opening day at Day Air Field. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Dayton Dragons baseball is ready for its home opener against the Lansing Lugnuts on Tuesday — with more than a few differences.

Heeding public safety guidelines, social distancing will be as important at Day Air Ballpark as it continues to be elsewhere, with capacity this coming season reduced to about 30% of normal capacity. Between seats, suites, spots on the lawn and assorted bar stools, there will be room for no more than a total of about 2,600 fans at Dragons games this year.

“From the experience standpoint, you’re still going to get unsurpassed customer service when you come here,” said Robert Murphy, Dayton Dragons president. “You’re still going to have a smile on your face.”

Dayton Dragons President and General Manager, Robert Murphy talks to the media about opening day 2021. JIM NOELKER/STAFF
Dayton Dragons President and General Manager, Robert Murphy talks to the media about opening day 2021. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Credit: JIM NOELKER

The team has had to reimagine some of its locally famous entertainment, Murphy said. The much-loved T-shirt toss will be replaced by a virtual toss that fans can follow on the park’s video board.

“We really wanted to create something that would engage the fans and also have them participate within their pod,” he said.

With the ongoing pandemic in mind, park seats have been painstakingly tied off, Murphy said, creating pods of two-, four- and six-seats, arranged so that the pods have ample distancing.

The last time the Dragons played ball in Dayton, it was against the West Michigan Whitecaps on Sept. 2, 2019. (The Dragons won 5-4.)

Day Air Ballpark was Fifth Third Field back then, and it was a different era, about six months before a then-unheard of global pandemic was first truly felt in the United States.

Eric Deutsch, executive vice president of the Dayton Dragons, said about 1,700 seats will be available between downstairs and upstairs seating this season, plus capacity in the suites — where no more than 10 people will be allowed, per state guidelines. Additional seating and capacity will be offered in party areas and on the grass, which will have about 56 pods on three lawns areas. Bar stool seats have also been placed near the foul poles and in the Dragon’s Lair area.

Seats have been tied off at Day Air Ballpark to make social distancing possible. THOMAS GNAU/STAFF
Seats have been tied off at Day Air Ballpark to make social distancing possible. THOMAS GNAU/STAFF

State government orders allow no more than 50% capacity in hospitality areas, he said.

“If everybody comes on the first night, we’d have about 2,600 people in the ballpark,” Deutsch said.

Other guidelines: Face coverings will be required, except when people are seated, eating and drinking. Fans will be asked to not to attend if they have had a fever of 100.4 or higher or have exhibited other symptoms in the past three days, and they’ll be asked to remain seated as much as possible, with new gates and entryways opened to prevent crowding and congregating.

Game programs will be digitized, as will ticketing and other payments. Fans are asked to download the Dayton Dragons app to buy tickets and obtain a barcode to scan at the gates.

Concession stands will have Plexiglass and snacks can be purchased with credit cards, debit cards, Apple Pay or Google Pay apps.

“Obviously, we’re just pivoting like the rest of the world,” team Vice President Brad Eaton said.

And about that sell-out streak: The Dragons have counted more than 1,380 sold-out games since play started at what was Fifth Third Field, 220 N. Patterson Blvd., on April 27, 2000 — more than any other professional sports concern. Murphy said the team had no interest in “playing games” with that; he said counting of sold-out games will be paused until next season.

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