Disneyland, Stadiums Can Begin Reopening in California April 1

California officials said theme parks and stadiums can reopen as soon as April 1 provided they meet local requirements and take precautions against the coronavirus, marking a key milestone for the most populous U.S. state.

Ballparks and venues for live outdoor performances can reopen on that date, but will have to limit crowds to 100 -- and keep concessions closed -- if the caseloads in their counties keep them in the strictest, purple tier, state officials said Friday. That will expand to 20% when cases fall further.

Theme parks can resume operations when their counties hit the red tier, the second-strictest level. They’ll have to observe a 15% capacity limit. All of the venues will require masks and limit guests to in-state visitors, officials said.

With cases falling, the announcement provides a path to normalcy for companies like Walt Disney Co., SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. and concert promoter Live Nation Entertainment Inc., which have suffered during the shutdown. It also means a few fans can return to baseball stadiums from Oakland to San Diego for the start of the season that day.

“California feels well equipped to take these small but meaningful steps,” Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency, said on a conference call. “We will, as I said yesterday, keep our foot on the brakes and not on the gas.”

Outdoor Shutdown

Much of the state’s outdoor-entertainment industry has been shut since last March under Covid-19 protocols that were among the strictest in the nation. But California Governor Gavin Newsom, who faces a recall effort tied in part to complaints over business closures, has been moving more swiftly to reopen the state’s economy.

The Major League Baseball season starts April 1. Of the state’s teams, the Oakland A’s, San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Angels are scheduled to play at home on that date. The Los Angeles Dodgers, the reigning world champions, open their season on that date in Colorado, and the San Francisco Giants start their season in Seattle.

Before Friday, the state had said theme parks couldn’t reopen until falling virus caseloads put counties in the lowest, yellow tier. Currently, Los Angeles and Orange counties, home to Comcast Corp.’s Universal Studios and Disneyland, remain in the purple tier, three rungs above that. But both could be days away from reaching the red tier if cases continue to drop.

“This gives some of the bigger employers time to ramp up, to get ready for April 1 and to begin to move forward based on the data and the science,” said Dee Dee Myers, a senior adviser to Newsom and director of the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development.

Disney shares rose as much as 3.6% in after-hours trading.

Ken Potrock, president of the Disneyland resort, said he looks forward to reopening this spring and getting thousands of employees back to work. Andrea Zinder, president of the union local that represents retail workers at the Disney parks, said her members too were looking forward to returning after a year on furlough.

The restraints are set to relax further as Covid-19 infections fall. In the red tier, ballpark capacity will start to increase. Concession sales will be primarily in-seat, with no concourse outlets open. In the orange tier, capacity will be limited to 33%, and in the yellow tier capacity will increase to 67%. Attendance will be limited to in-state visitors in all three tiers.

Visiting a theme park will require reservations. There won’t be indoor dining, and capacity restrictions will be in place on indoor rides. Visitor limits will rise to 35% in the least-restrictive, yellow tier, though still limited to in-state guests.

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