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For the second year in a row, Detroiters are losing a beloved, but unofficial, holiday to the pandemic: Opening Day at Comerica Park.
Last year, Opening Day was delayed as the baseball season was postponed. When the season finally started in July, the city was a ghost town of its usual boisterous self. In addition to empty stands, no one was at the helm of the barbecue, cornhole matches were postponed, and the soundtrack of street performers and musicians was no more.
This year, the game is on with fans in attendance, albeit fewer than normal, and there's one rule of thumb from Mayor Mike Duggan: If you don't have a ticket, don't come.
"The (coronavirus) situation has changed a lot in the last two weeks. We're asking you that if you do not have a ticket to the game, please do not come into the city," Duggan said during a COVID-19 briefing Monday.
City officials expressed concern during Monday's briefing regarding the city's rising COVID-19 cases, which have nearly doubled in the last two weeks, particularly with those ages 20 to 29. Vaccine eligibility in the city has been widened to include Detroiters 16 and older, a week before eligibility expands statewide to include all residents 16 and older.
With the city taking a turn for the worse, Duggan is warning fans that this year's game won't look familiar but he hopes next year will be closer to what they anticipate. To further stifle excitement, Duggan warns ticketholders to not come to the city early.
"You're not going to have the experience you remember," Duggan said. "Given the fact that COVID is rising, we're going to be enforcing the rules."
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At the stadium, 8,000 fans will fill its 42,000 seats, putting it at about 20% capacity. Bars and restaurants, which are usually overflowing with patrons enjoying the game from screens with beer aplenty, will be operating at 50% capacity.
"If you think it's going to be one of those opening days where everybody fills up the bars and restaurants and nobody enforces it, you're wrong," Duggan said.
Duggan warns that coronavirus safety guidelines, including mask wearing and social distancing, will be strictly enforced by police and the health department. Restaurants and bars that do not abide by state guidelines could potentially have their license suspended, Duggan warned.
Those tailgating must also adhere to safety precautions and those who don't will not be permitted, he said.
The Tigers will kick off the season starting against the Cleveland Indians at Comerica Park Thursday. Tickets can be bought online.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Tigers' Opening Day 2021 will be quieter, tamer