By Ken Stone, Times of San Diego, a member of the San Diego Online News Association
Photo: artist’s rendering of SeaWorld San Diego’s new dive coaster under construction. Image via SeaWorld
March 5, 2021 (San Diego) - Petco Park, SeaWorld and other major outdoor attractions and sports/performance venues across the state can reopen as early as April 1 subject to counties’ rates of COVID-19 spread and with strict capacity-control mandates and required mask-wearing, state officials announced Friday.
The announcement marks a major policy shift relating to theme parks, which the state had earlier said would not be permitted to reopen until their home counties reached the least-restrictive tier of the state’s “Blueprint for a Safer Economy,” a four-level system guiding reopenings of businesses and other attractions.
“This is another strong step forward in our COVID recovery,” said San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher. “We have worked hard to get to this point and this new state guidance will deliver a safe return to having fans at Padres games, outdoor concerts and amusements parks.”
Under the new guidance announced by the California Department of Public Health, theme parks will now be allowed to reopen when their home county reaches the “red” tier, which is the second-most-restrictive level of the economic blueprint.
San Diego County is still in the most restrictive “purple” tier of that matrix.
San Diego Padres CEO Erik Greupner thanked Newsom and said his club was excited to hear the news, “which creates a path to welcome our loyal and passionate fans back home to Petco Park for the 2021 season.”
“Our number one priority is providing our fans with a safe and fun experience when they return to the ballpark,” he said in a statement. “We have been diligently preparing to ensure that Petco Park is one of the safest places to be in San Diego this season.”
Greupner said the Padres will communicate with season ticket members soon regarding details of their return to Petco Park.
“San Diego and our country have been through a very difficult period and we are proud that once again the great game of baseball can serve as a unifying and healing force in our community,” he said.
Los Angeles County — home to Universal Studios Hollywood and Six Flags Magic Mountain — and Orange County — home to the Disneyland Resort and Knott’s Berry Farm — are also both still in the most restrictive “purple” tier, but both could advance to the “red” tier by the end of the month.
When the counties reach the “red” tier, theme parks can open at 15% of overall capacity. When they advance to the “orange” tier, capacity will be increased to 25%, and in the least-restrictive “yellow” tier, capacity of 35% will be allowed.
Only in-state visitors will be allowed at the theme parks.
Outdoor sports and live performance venues can also reopen as early as April 1, also with capacity limits based on the county’s tier ranking.
For counties in the most restrictive “purple” tier, outdoor venues will be strictly limited to a total of 100 people, with only local residents permitted, advance reservations or tickets required and no concessions or concourse sales allowed.
When counties reach the less-restrictive “red” tier, capacity will be increased to 20%, with primarily in-seat concessions allowed. In the even less-restrictive “orange” tier, 33% capacity will be allowed, and in the top “yellow” tier, capacity will increase to 67%.
Only in-state visitors will be permitted to the venues in counties in the “red,” “orange” and “yellow” tiers.
“With case rates and hospitalizations significantly lower, the arrival of three highly effective vaccines and targeted efforts aimed at vaccinating the most vulnerable communities, California can begin gradually and safely bringing back more activities, especially those that occur outdoors and where consistent masking is possible,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s Health and Human Services secretary. “Even with these changes, California retains some of the most robust public health protocols in the country.”