Take Me Out to the Ball Game

April 21, 2021

The 2021 Major League Baseball (MLB) season debuted in early April with signs of hope. While attendance is still limited at most venues, a new baseball season brings forth a feeling of optimism and renewal, especially after last year’s shortened season without fans. While the first few weeks of games have allowed for a great sense of comradery, they have also brought in much-needed revenue streams in areas such as ticket sales, parking, concessions and in-stadium merchandise. According to Forbes, the league’s revenue is expected to increase for all 30 teams beginning next season when MLB’s new national media deals kick in with ESPN, Fox and TBS. Thus far, the league is set for a 19% annual average increase from 2022 through 2028.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred announced that the rules for fan attendance would not be universal among the league’s 30 ballparks. Each club is permitted to create their own plans for attendance for the start of the regular season. The expectation is that things will change as more Americans receive COVID-19 vaccines and local governments alter gathering guidelines. Various safety measures have been implemented in order to ensure the safety of the players, staff and guests. Below are a few key aspects of the plans and safety measures:

  • Ballpark Entry: Guests must obtain a negative test result from a PCR or display proof of full vaccination of either Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson.
  • Physical Distancing: Seats are sold in pod format and each location will be separated by at least six feet. Lines at gates, concession stands and restrooms will utilize floor markers to ensure guests maintain proper distance.
  • Face Masks: Guests must wear a face covering at all times except when actively eating or drinking at their seats.
  • Cleaning and Safety: All high-touch areas will be cleaned and disinfected during games. Hand sanitizer stations will also be made available throughout the ballpark.
  • Cashless Transactions/Mobile Ordering: All tickets will be delivered via the MLB mobile app (print-at-home and paper tickets are not available this season). In an effort to further limit touchpoints, all transactions will be touchless.

While for the 2021 season many fans will stream the games through broadcast and digital platforms as opposed to being physically in attendance, the MLB is committed to innovating more than ever this season with various fan engagement initiatives and new technology experiences. The MLB chief operations and strategy officer, Chris Marinak, outlined the four pillars of the league’s fan engagement strategy:

  • Personalize all of its digital products
  • Modernize the venue experience for convenience and safety
  • Attract younger audiences through gaming and fan communities
  • Create new differentiated ways to consume the sport

The pandemic has accelerated the creation of fully digitized smart ballparks, as well as the league’s desire to merge the physical and digital experience for fans. Marinak also emphasized the importance of utilizing technology to grow the league’s fan base and connect with the next generation of fans via podcasts and digital programming. We will continue to root, root, root for the home team and wait until the fall to see who will come out on top as World Series champs!

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