DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – The Dayton Dragons are preparing to return to full capacity in three weeks on June 8. Dragons Executive Vice President Eric Deutsch says with the team back in action and playing great, and a hungry Miami Valley fanbase, full capacity is the last domino to fall.
Many COVID safety measures will remain, but it will signal a significant step towards returning to normal. Deutsch says, “It’s been a refresher of pent-up demand, people have missed a lot of things over the past 18-20 months, and baseball has been one of them.”
The seats at Day Air Ballpark will once again be filled starting June 8, when the stadium returns to full capacity. Deutsch says, “We’ve been hoping for this day and working for when that day would come, back with our ticketing manifest and getting our season ticket holders back in their seats and opening up at full capacity.”
Fully vaccinated people will no longer be required to wear a mask. The CDC recommends unvaccinated people continue wearing a mask. Many COVID safety measures will remain in place, including touchless technology inside restrooms, plexiglass at customer service areas, and cashless concessions.
But Dragons executives expect the familiar atmosphere will be back soon. Deutsch says, “I think it will be great when we have great weather, a great game, a packed crowd, and it’s that sense of ‘hey we are somewhat back to normal and life goes on’.”
Deutsch says many of the Dragons players have not yet played in front of a typical Dayton crowd. “I’m actually very excited for them to play in front of the full house we’ll pretty much have every night. That will be new for a lot of the guys, and we be back to what it’s like to play at day air ballpark.”
Group outings are now possible, and all party decks and suites are now available, offered at half-price for the rest of the year.
And the reopen will force the Dragons to adjust its staffing levels. Deutsch says, “I think we’re going to have to take a look at some staffing issues in regard to getting 8,000 people in the building vs. 2500, so there will be some economies of scale we’ll have to work on.”
WATCH Stadium District bars prepping for return of big crowds:
The decision to return to full capacity will also have a major impact on the surrounding neighborhood. One manager said the time is right to capitalize on big crowds as bars and restaurants have done what they’re supposed to in following COVID restrictions. Now that they’re lifted, the ballpark will soon be full again, and the residual effects should bring a lot of profit.
Chris Bhai is the general manager at Brixx Ice Company. He says, “I think it’s almost going to be like a New Year’s level of celebration. Everyone’s going to come out, I think the energy and activity outside and downtown will just ramp up.”
Brixx Ice Company sits just beyond the right field foul pole at Day Air Ballpark. Bhai says the difference between a game-day crowd and a pandemic crowd is drastic and detrimental to business. “Without the baseball, we’re kind of a mom-and-pop organization, and with baseball over there now, we get to fully staff and show off our building.”
Brixx is one of many Stadium District bars and restaurants that crafted a business model dependent on Dragons games.
Yellow Cab Tavern’s Brian Johnson says, “To go an entire year without activity at the stadium, I can only imagine has hurt them greatly, but you feel it all across the community.” Yellow Cab Tavern is several blocks from the ballpark. With full crowds returning soon, Yellow Cab also expects a major game-day boost.
Johnson says, “A lot of people will take a night to come out and hang out on the patio before the game, walk their way over there to all of the small businesses and bars along the way.” He says most bars are still struggling to get fully staffed, but customers are understanding. And he says more business means they can help more customers. “It’s critical that we start getting more money flowing into the community, and to these workers and businesses. But we’re not going to be able to ramp up if we’re not supported in that way.”