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Baseball returns! Portland Sea Dogs home opener on May 4

Opening Day 2021 for the Portland Sea Dogs is Tuesday, May 4. It has been 610 days since the team last played a game after the pandemic canceled the 2020 season.

PORTLAND, Maine — There's excitement in the air at Hadlock Field the morning of Tuesday, May 4. In the evening, the Portland Sea Dogs will be taking on the New Hampshire Fisher Cats for the 2021 home opener -- the first game the team has played in 610 days. 

"We're really excited to go," Geoff Lacuessa, the president of the team, told NEWS CENTER Maine during a live interview Tuesday morning. "We really started the planning process last summer when we had an understanding of what this season might look like."

The Sea Dogs have worked with the state of Maine on a reopening plan that will put them at 28 percent capacity (2,087 fans) to start the season. The stadium can usually sit 7,368 people. The management team is excited to see fans again.

"It's just been great getting the stadium ready, having the team in town working out on the field. There's so much excitement -- and a lot from fans, as well, reaching out (with) words of encouragement," Iacuessa explained.

"It's an opportunity to get out with some family, friends -- and cheer on the Sea Dogs," said Emma Tiedemann. She's the new director of broadcasting for the team and was supposed to start her role last year before the season was canceled. For her, the anticipation has meant a long but exciting buildup. 

"The one thing I wanted to do in March of 2020 was call a Sea Dogs game -- and I've had to wait a little longer than I expected, but it's all going to be worth it," Tiedemann smiled.

RELATED: There's a new "Voice of the Sea Dogs"

Tickets

The Sea Dogs will play a 120-game schedule (60 home and 60 away) in 2021.

A big change compared to years past is tickets will be sold on a month-to-month basis, beginning in April for May games and continuing in May for June games, June for July games, and so on. Sea Dogs’ season ticket members will have a priority opportunity to purchase tickets before the team opens them up for sale to the public. The team will also release its promotional schedule in the same month-to-month format, allowing them to evaluate on a monthly basis what is safe for them to do.

Tickets for May games went on sale to the general public at noon on Wednesday, April 14. Fans can either purchase tickets online or by calling the Sea Dogs ticket office at 207-879-9500. Tickets will be sold in advance only. No on-site ticket sales will be permitted to start the season. Fans can visit seadogs.com for complete ticketing info, including answers to frequently asked questions.

The Sea Dogs are also offering fans who have held on to their 2020 tickets to once again request a refund. Fans may do so through June 1, 2021, according to vice president of communications and fan experience Chris Cameron. Since the physical tickets are still active and subject to the redeeming policies listed above, the Sea Dogs do need the original tickets returned in order to process the refund.

Cameron said fans with tickets from 2020 have three options: 

  • The amount that was paid for their 2020 tickets can be put towards the price of purchasing 2021 tickets. 
  • They can choose to wait until the Sea Dogs return to a green status, where they will be able to exchange their tickets straight up for tickets of the same seating level or lower, based upon availability, per our normal operating procedures. 
  • They can request a refund prior to June 2, 2021.

RELATED: Sea Dogs baseball is back! Fan experience adjusted amid pandemic

According to Cameron, ticket prices for the 2021 season are $19 for box seats, $18 for reserved seats, and $17 for grandstand seats. Sky Boxes are available to rent for up to eight people. 

"Last year was obviously a really difficult season for us and looking at this year, with the reduced capacity, we still think our expenses project at probably about 105 percent of where we were in 2019," Iacuessa told NEWS CENTER Maine. "So, for this year, being at only 28 percent capacity, we did have to raise ticket prices; but as we're able to open up more capacity, we'll bring those ticket prices back down. Certainly, hopefully in 2022 when we're back to 100 percent capacity, we'll make sure the ticket prices go back down to where they typically are."

The Sea Dogs have implemented a red/yellow/green ticket status moving forward. Below is an explanation of that program. The team is currently in a yellow status, and Cameron said they anticipate that will be the case for much, if not all, of 2021.

Green- when green is designated by Sea Dog officials, they will honor tickets via our normal operating procedures. 

Yellow- when yellow is designated by Sea Dog officials, they will have reduced capacity available to fans. Specific instructions on how to purchase tickets will be provided. If you are applying a ticket purchased from a previous game to a game with a yellow designation only the amount paid for that ticket via the Sea Dogs ticket office is applicable towards the purchase price of the ticket to the yellow game. If a ticket was purchased via a reseller or via a donation only the purchase price paid when it was acquired from the Sea Dogs will be applied to the new ticket. Fans may also hold on to valid exchangeable tickets and exchange them once the Sea Dogs status returns to green. 

Red- when red is designated by Sea Dog officials that means no fans are permitted into the ballpark due to health and safety concerns. If the Sea Dogs are under a red designation fans with tickets to games designated as red will have a specific timeframe to request a refund or may hold on to their tickets and apply the price paid towards a future game. Please note any exchange or refund request must be accompanied by the original tickets. 

RELATED: Maine business leaders reflect on one year of pandemic challenges

Promotions planned for May

Every Wednesday throughout the season will be a bobblehead giveaway, according to Cameron. Here are some notable events planned for May:

  • On Wednesday, May 5, the first 500 fans will receive a Bobby Dalbec bobblehead with a home run counter, courtesy of Royal River Heat Pumps. 
  • On Wednesday, May 26, the first 500 fans will receive a Darwinzon Hernandez bobblehead, courtesy of AAA. 
  • The first fireworks show of the season will take place on Friday, May 28, followed by Superhero Day on Saturday, May 29.
  • The Sea Dogs will host a Breast Cancer Awareness Day and wear pink jerseys on Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 9. 

For a complete list of May promotions, visit seadogs.com

Safety protocols

Cameron said the following safety protocols will be in place during the 2021 season:

Face Masks

All fans will be required to be masked at all times, even while seated. The only exception will be when fans are in their seats and actively eating or drinking. Nobody will be permitted into the ballpark without a mask, and anyone violating the mask rule in the ballpark will be removed.

Enhanced Cleaning & Sanitation

Enhanced daily cleaning procedures include frequent wipe downs of high-touch areas such as countertops, railings, doorknobs, and elevators; nightly disinfection of all interior areas; and frequent trash removal. Use of EPA-certified cleaning products with reduced dwell times will be used. Restrooms will be cleaned multiple times throughout each game. A cleaning porter will be assigned to each restroom to continuously clean all surfaces throughout the game. Hand sanitizer stations will be located throughout the ballpark at all entrances, concourses, and restrooms.

Additional Entrances

The Sea Dogs have added additional entrances, for a total of four, to the ballpark for the 2021 season to help maintain physical distancing. Fans will be assigned specific entrances where they will enter and exit the ballpark from. The entrances will be marked on their ticket. Traffic flow will be marked with arrows with staff monitoring proper flow and distance between groups.

Pod Seating

Seats have been laid out throughout the ballpark in pods of 2-8 seats. Each pod is located at least six feet from the next pod. In addition, nowhere in the ballpark will one seating pod need to walk through another pod. The Sea Dogs have utilized the end of rows and only used the middle of rows when the end of those same rows aren't being used. This will, again, minimize the chance of getting within six feet of any other fan. Fans must buy the entire pod of seats. Any separating seat that is not part of a pod will be tied up, so it can’t be used.

Mobile Food Ordering

All concessions sales will be in-seat only. Fans will be able to order via their phone or from one of our service staff. Food will then be delivered to the specific seat location. Sea Dogs’ souvenirs will also be available through mobile ordering with seat delivery.

Mobile & Touchless Ticketing

Fans are asked to use mobile ticketing or print-at-home options. Tickets will be sent directly to phones, and fans can enter the ballpark through touchless ticket scanners, which will allow guests to enter the stadium faster and safer.

On-Field Personnel

Major League Baseball was able to successfully return to the field in 2020, thanks to a stringent testing and contact tracing program. Their plan in the return to play at the Minor League level will follow similar guidelines. Additionally, there will be a 12-foot buffer between the field and seats in areas where players commonly are (dugout, bullpen, on-deck circle) to help protect fans from players and vice versa.

Employees

All game-day staff will participate in online training prior to working their first shift. The training will review all safety measures being implemented at the ballpark. Employees will be required to self-evaluate for COVID symptoms prior to leaving for work. The Sea Dogs will use the embedded self-checker code available on the CDC website

A complete list of Hadlock Field COVID-19 health & safety protocols is available at seadogs.com.

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Editor's Note: The video below aired March 26, 2020.