ANAHEIM, Calif. (NewsNation Now) — California has cleared a path for fans to hit the stands at opening-day baseball games and return to Disneyland nearly a year after coronavirus restrictions shuttered major entertainment spots.
The state on Friday relaxed guidelines for reopening outdoor venues as a fall and winter surge seemed to be ending, with COVID-19 infection rates, hospitalizations and deaths plummeting and vaccination rates rising.
“This is a great day for Anaheim; it’s a day we have been waiting for 12 months now,” said Mike Lyster.
Disneyland Resort President Ken Potrock did not say when the iconic theme park would reopen, but added “we can’t wait to welcome guests back and look forward to sharing an opening date soon.”
The reopening can’t come too soon for Kenny King Jr., a resident of Pleasant Hill in the San Francisco Bay Area who became an annual Disneyland passholder a decade ago. He typically takes his family to the Southern California park five times a year, but the last visit was just over a year ago for his birthday.
King, 38, said he’s excited to return with his 8-year-old daughter, who had just started enjoying rides such as Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Space Mountain, and to take his 2-year-old son, who was mesmerized by the lights and sounds when he visited last year.
“That’s something that we just made our family thing — Disney trips,” King said. “We’ll sit there at the house sometimes and we’ll be like ‘man, I just miss Disneyland.’
Retailers at Downtown Disney, like Blacktap Restaurant owner Chris Barish, say they’re excited to get back.
“It’s great it’s important to get people back in the park. It’s a great step to show that things are moving in the right direction,” he said.
Barish’s Downtown Disney restaurant has been open at a limited outdoor capacity. He says the excitement can’t be overstated for Disney enthusiasts.
“Remember at Downtown Disney and at Disney in Anaheim there are a lot of season pass holders so those people come you know eight-ten times a year they haven’t been able to come to the park so they’re going to be thrilled to come back,” Barish said.
Disneyland employees have been furloughed or out of a job for nearly a year. Andrea Zinder, president of the local United Food and Commercial Workers Union that represents Disney workers, said employees are “excited to go back to work and provide Californians with a bit more magic in their lives.”
The San Diego Padres, Los Angeles Angels and Oakland Athletics all announced they will have fans in the stands for opening day April 1. The Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants both start their seasons on the road and said they would announce their plans later.
Teams and event organizers can only sell tickets regionally in the purple tier. In the other tiers, teams and organizers can sell tickets to anyone living in California. No concessions will be allowed in the purple tier, while in others, concession sales will only be available at seats.
Richard Haick of San Pablo, California, already bought ticket vouchers for the Oakland A’s return and hopes to take his 10-year-old son to a game soon. His son plays Little League Baseball and is very excited to attend games.
“It’s nice to have, even in a reduced capacity, some sense of normal,” said Haick, a 45-year-old photographer.
The quicker pace of reopening is tied to a new plan to vaccinate California’s most vulnerable residents. Once 2 million people across 400 ZIP codes in the most disadvantaged neighborhoods receive at least one vaccine dose, it will be easier for counties to exit the state’s most restrictive tier. Once 4 million people in those neighborhoods are vaccinated, counties will be able to open up even more.
The Associated Press contributed to this report