California has more professional sports teams than any other state—and lots of fans eager to catch a game in person again. If you’re thinking about going to a game in the coming months, keep in mind that for a variety of reasons, there’s no one-size-fits-all set of health and safety standards. Not surprisingly, protocols can vary between indoor arenas and outdoor stadiums, and individual leagues may also impose specific mandates. The biggest variable, no matter the sport, is that teams must comply with the specific regulations of their local public health departments.
Individual teams are also establishing their own protocols, so a good first step for fans is to check the team’s website to learn the rules for any game you’re planning to attend. Although the Los Angeles Dodgers quickly opened to full capacity, for instance, the San Francisco Giants waited a bit longer to let fans get used to the new normal, according to Shana Daum, senior vice president, public affairs and community relations.
“We’ve always appreciated our fans but now we appreciate them even more,” says Daum. “Since Opening Day, the players have been thankful just to have fans in [attendance] and not be playing in front of cardboard cutouts and piped-in crowd noise.”
They’re excited over in Major League Soccer too. After California’s reopening, the Los Angeles Galaxy and Los Angeles Football Club played home matches on the same night and drew a total of 45,000 fans. “It’s awesome,” LAFC midfielder Corey Baird says. “The fans are obviously a huge part of our team and playing at home, with the energy they give us and the support they’re giving us throughout the entire game—we’re going to put on a show for those supporters.”
Here are a few of the most common COVID-19 protocols to expect when attending a sporting event in California.
Cashless Venues. Many teams are limiting concession and merchandise purchases to digital wallets and credit/debit cards, or through apps. For the Giants and Dodgers, as well as the San Diego Padres, Los Angeles Angels, and Oakland Athletics, that means using the MLB Ballpark app. Depending on the venue, you’ll be able to order food from your seat, then pick up your grub from the concession stand you selected. (At Padres games in Petco Park, they even deliver food to all sections.) There will also still be walk-up service at most ballpark concession stands. For MLS events, you can download apps for California’s teams: the Los Angeles Galaxy, Los Angeles Football Club, and the San Jose Earthquakes.
Paperless Tickets. Forget about the good old days of saving your ticket stub or even the PDF you printed from a computer. To limit touchpoints, at most events you’ll need to show a digital ticket on your mobile phone. That’s another good reason to download the team’s or league’s app. Among California’s three NHL teams, the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks have their own apps for ticketing, while the Anaheim Ducks use the official NHL app.
Proof of Vaccination (In Some Counties). If you’re attending a ticketed outdoor event of more than 10,000 (or any indoor event) in Los Angeles County, you’ll need to show proof of vaccination; In San Francisco, Alameda, or Contra Costa counties, proof of vaccination is required for indoor events only.
Bring a Mask. Although proof of vaccination isn’t required at most venues across the state, unvaccinated people are expected to wear masks at outdoor events. The CDC recommends that all fans, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, mask up when accessing indoor spaces.
Bag the Bag. To speed up the entry process and to minimize points of contact, many teams are strictly limiting the size and kinds of bags that fans bring into arenas and stadiums. The Galaxy, for example, has a policy that only permits clear bags and small clutch bags.
In the NFL, the Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers are finally getting the chance to play in front of full houses at the $5.5 billion, state-of-the-art SoFi Stadium; the league’s expansion to a 17-game season is a welcome added bonus. Check team websites for stadium policies and protocols. The same venue-check reminder also holds true for NBA fans who plan to attend a Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State Warriors, or Sacramento Kings game.