FARGO — The Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks are trending closer to allowing a full stadium this summer as they celebrate their 25th anniversary season.
The independent baseball team will allow 75% capacity at Newman Outdoor Field to start the American Association season, around 3,100 fans, up 25% from a summer ago. The RedHawks operated at 50% capacity (around 2,200 fans) last season due to the coronavirus pandemic.
RedHawks general manager Matt Rau said there will be multiple sections set aside for spectators who want to maintain social distancing recommendations for COVID-19.
“We want people to feel comfortable coming back to the park and being amongst fans again,” Rau said. “Whatever we can do to assist that, we’re more than happy to do it.”
The RedHawks host the California Dogecoin at 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 11, in an exhibition game at Newman Outdoor Field. They also host the Dogecoin at 11 a.m. Wednesday in another exhibition matchup.
If the situation allows, the goal is to return to full capacity at Newman at some point this summer.
“The general feeling is with the vaccination numbers where they are, people are becoming a little more relaxed with the ability to go into groups again, but even myself, it’s weird being in group settings again after what we’ve all been through,” Rau said.
Rau said there will be multiple health and safety protocols in place to start the season, including touch-free fixtures in restrooms, enhanced cleaning measures, hand sanitizer stations throughout the stadium and at points of purchase. Employees will be wearing masks to start the season.
Fans are recommended, but not required, to wear masks. That is the same protocol as last summer. Rau added there are also distance markers in areas where lines could congregate.
Rau thinks there is more fan confidence heading into the season compared to the 2020 season, which started late and was trimmed to 60 regular-season games due to COVID-19.
“There is an increased interest from fans to attend games in person compared to the start of last season,” Rau said .“Everyone has gotten used to the protocols that are in place.”
The RedHawks home opener is set for 7:02 p.m. May 25 against the Chicago Dogs. F-M’s season opener is on May 18 at the Cleburne (Texas) Railroaders. The regular season is slated for 100 games. The league is back to operating with 12 teams after playing with six teams last season due to the pandemic.
F-M is in the North Division along with the Milwaukee Milkmen, Gary SouthShore RailCats, Chicago, Kane County (Ill.) Cougars and Winnipeg Goldeyes. Winnipeg will start the season playing its games in Jackson, Tenn., due to the Canada-United States border closure.
The RedHawks, which played their first season in 1996, officially started their training camp last week with 24 players on the roster. Rau said there were no positive tests among players to start training camp.
“Health and safety of players and fans is still a priority and with consultation with local health officials, we’ll follow recommendations,” he said.