A look at what’s new at Chase Field ahead of D-backs’ 2021 home opener
Last season, the Arizona Diamondbacks’ cheering section was dwindled down to the grounds crew due to the coronavirus pandemic.
While the banging of bases and tools in a small section down the third-base line was heard loud and clear — kudos to them — in an empty Chase Field, it just wasn’t the same.
This season, 20,000 fans will be welcomed back to the stands beginning with Friday’s home opener against the Cincinnati Reds, providing energy to both the players and front office. As of Friday morning, tickets for the home opener were still available.
Those in attendance will once again get to take in the sights, sounds and smells of Chase Field, with some new features thrown in for 2021.
“The team is really looking forward to Opening Day. Now with fans starting to come back into the ballpark, it’s an exciting time for them,” senior advisor to the president and CEO Luis Gonzalez said. “It’s one of those times where fans are part of the game. Having them in the ballpark really energizes them and gets them going in the right direction.
“For us to be able to start the season with fans in the ballpark, it’s really going to take our team to the next level, especially at this ballpark. We have a very young team and they kinda thrive on the attendance and the fans that we have.”
So what exactly is new at Chase Field this year?
Let’s start from the outside in.
Contactless health and safety protocols
Fans showing up to games will need to have clear bags when entering the ballpark to help ensure contactless entry. If you need somewhere to store your belongings, Binbox storage lockers are available for use. To help promote the use of clear bags, the D-backs are giving away bags to the first 5,000 fans on April 9-11.
Staying along those contactless lines, the ballpark will be completely cashless, meaning tickets — which can be downloaded on the Ballpark App — food and all other purchases will be digital. Appropriate masks — no gaiters or handkerchiefs — are to be worn at all times when not eating and drinking.
“I think as long as we are in this pandemic, it makes sense for us to enforce and encourage the masks,” D-backs president and CEO Derrick Hall said. “The treatment of food will be the same as well.”
As for the early arrivers, you might want to take the long way in as the gates will now open 30 minutes later to help minimize the amount of crowds waiting outside the ballpark. On opening day, that means gates open at 5 p.m. with a 6:40 p.m. first pitch.
Signage on the ground and around the stadium has also been added to help promote social distancing in the concourse and around the ballpark.
Entering Chase Field, you’ll notice podded areas, ranging from 1-5 seats. The seats in each pod cannot be re-sold individually. Vaccination pods or sections have also been brought up in an ongoing discussion.
“In addition to that we’re looking at the possibility of maybe having vaccinations here,” Hall added. “Actual vaccinations taking place in the ballpark. There’s a lot that we’re open to. That was one of the ideas and certainly providing vaccinations if we can here at the ballpark would be great too.”
Not lost on the event was the fact Gov. Doug Ducey lifted COVID-19 mitigation requirements for the state at the end of March.
The governor’s executive order turns all of the state’s business requirements into recommendations, with bars also able to go back to their pre-pandemic operations.
While the lifted mandates mean the D-backs could house more fans, the organization is taking a measured approach as the state begins to relax its restrictions. You have to crawl before you walk, Hall said.
“I think it obviously gives us the capability of bringing more fans in. We’re going to try to balance that first and make sure if we do then all of the protocols that we laid out … all stays the same. That’s not going to change,” Hall added. “That’s the most important for us. We’ll take a look now at the seating manifest to see if we can get more in there. I can’t see us at this point wanting to 0-100 so fast. It doesn’t make sense just to go without restriction at this point.
“Eventually we would love to get there but it’s got to be at the right time as well. … We see the numbers continue to dwindle, the vaccinations continue to go up. That’s a good sign. Hopefully we are back to some point of normalcy and there are no restrictions. But I think even in that scenario if we had every seat available, we would still maintain this new cashless, contactless way, which quite honestly I think our fans would prefer to do in the future anyway.”
New featured food items
For the fans that are in attendance for the team’s home opener, one thing is for sure: Chase Field food is back!
Chef Steve Tilder went to work this offseason, providing five new “wow” items for fans to sink their teeth into. The lineup, which is said to have 16 new items, features a poblano cheesesteak, a beer cheese bratwurst, the ultimate pub burger, 505 green chile, chicken bacon and ranch tots, and a Danzeisen Dairy chocolate mint chip shake.
“As we get back into the swing of things and grow, we’ll start releasing new and fun stuff,” Tilder said.
In addition to the new eats, the D-backs are also introducing Gadzooks to Chase Field at sections 116 and 314. The Still at Cutwater will have a variety of read-to-go cocktails.
Looking for a smaller bite? The Fry’s Grab n’ Go stands are stocked with easy-to-grab food and drinks.
Hall and the rest of the organization are hoping the new amenities and safety procedures in place can bring back that ballpark experience so many have missed out on this last year.
“Baseball has historically played a part in getting us back to normal,” Hall said. “After the World Wars, after 9/11 and now hopefully after this pandemic.
“It’s an important piece and it’s a family sport, so being able to sit in the seats and have conversations and pass this sport down from generation to generation [is the ultimate goal].”