Opinion: Fenway Park and TD Garden are rightfully playing it safe with reopening

It has been just about one month since Fenway Park and TD Garden began welcoming back fans in Boston, and I have been lucky enough to visit both venues since their reopenings. I felt perfectly safe at both locations, and the feeling of being back in two of my favorite places was nothing short of phenomenal.

Stadiums and arenas are currently allowed to hold 12% capacity, meaning Fenway can host about 4,500 fans and the Garden can host about 2,200 fans. Announced Tuesday, venues can hold 25% capacity starting May 10, meaning Fenway can host about 9,400 fans and the Garden can host about 4,600 fans. I think this is a good call by the state of Massachusetts, as I remember seeing huge sections of empty seats at both venues and thinking that they could be safely filled with more fans. 

Tickets to events at both locations are exclusively sold digitally. While events at the Garden can still be accessed and managed through Ticketmaster, Red Sox tickets can only be accessed through the MLB Ballpark app. While I found it a little confusing to set up, I quickly got the hang of how the app functioned. 

On the day of my visit to Fenway, I had to go onto the MLB Ballpark app and fill out a health screening survey to attend the game. On the ticket, there were instructions of what gate to enter through upon arrival. 

Fenway is currently divided into five “neighborhoods,” and fans can only stay within their neighborhood during the game. This made me feel safer, as I knew it cut down the number of people that  I’d be exposed to during my visit. 

Concessions run as any other merchant has during the pandemic, with plexiglass barriers between the cashier and customer. Cashless payments are encouraged, but they aren’t required, and any food or drink purchased must be consumed at your seats. 

The seating areas are quite spacious. There’s nobody around within about a 10-foot radius, meaning people over five feet can stretch out and put their feet up on the row in front of them. Masks should stay on though, as stadium employees occasionally stroll through each section to make sure everyone is following protocol.

Even with all of these restrictions, I could still feel the electricity that the fans brought to Fenway. They still belt the lyrics to Sweet Caroline, do the wave, and chant “Yankees suck!”

TD Garden (The Garden) Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

I found the restrictions and procedures at TD Garden to be a bit more straightforward and in your face, and I felt just a little safer compared to my experience at Fenway. 

The Garden made their policies a lot more known than Fenway did, as they broadcast their policies as the “Play it Safe Guidelines & Protocols.” While many of the policies were similar to those of Fenway, I found myself to be more aware of them purely because they had a name. 

Like Fenway, the Garden was also divided into neighborhoods. These neighborhoods ran right through the middle of the arena, so fans were restricted half of whatever level they were on. 

The Garden also came out with the TD Garden Hub app, which is essential for any fans attending a Bruins or Celtics game. From this app, fans can view their tickets, find out what entrance to use and fill out their health screening, which the Garden branded as the “Play it Safe Promise.” 

Unlike Fenway, the Garden has taken a touchless approach to their concession stands. You can preorder food through the Hub app, or you can use Apple pay. 

While the seating areas aren’t quite as spread out as at Fenway, there are still more than six feet between parties. The employees at the Garden are much more strict, as there’s someone stationed in each section to make sure people are following protocol. If you have your mask off for no reason they will notice fast and tell you to keep it on, but if you follow the guidelines they won’t bother you.

The employees at the Garden also don’t mess around when the game is over. At Fenway, I was able to stand around and take in the atmosphere for about 10 minutes after the final pitch, and I left under my own decision. At the Garden, they’re showing you the door at the final buzzer, which is a little annoying, but also understandable. 

Just like at Fenway, the atmosphere at the Garden is still very much alive, and when Taylor Hall scored his first goal as a Bruin the noise felt almost as loud as a full house.