More than 30,000 people attended the Texas Rangers home opener Monday against the Toronto Blue Jays, in the first major, full-capacity sporting event in the U.S. in more than a year.
The Rangers announced a sellout crowd of 38,283 tickets sold for their 2021 home debut at Globe Life Field in Arlington, where Toronto scored a 6-2 victory.
Masks are mandated inside the new ballpark, though pictures from Monday's game showed many spectators not wearing them.
One noted fan not in attendance Monday was Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who declined to throw the ceremonial first pitch because Major League Baseball moved its All-Star Game out of Atlanta in protest of Georgia's move to restrict voter access.
The $1.2 billion Arlington stadium, which has a retractable roof and a listed capacity of 40,518, was the site of 30 Rangers homes games in 2020, a truncated campaign that did not allow fans inside.
But when MLB took the unprecedented step of holding neutral-site playoff and World Series games at Globe Life last fall, limited attendance was permitted.
Monday's crowd eclipsed the Super Bowl, which drew 24,835 to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, on Feb. 7. College football's title game on Jan. 11 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, had an announced crowd of 14,926.
The Rangers insisted it was safe to host so many fans, citing in-person events that have been held at Globe Life since May.
In addition to MLB playoff games, there have been 60 high school graduations, 12 nights of the National Finals Rodeo and nine college baseball games at Globe Life, all of which drew nearly 450,000 people, the club said.
"As a result, we have had extensive health and safety protocols in place for nearly a year at Globe Life Field," team Executive Vice President John Blake said in a statement. "The customer service staff and security has a great deal of experience in handling large gatherings with the protocols in place. Those are the same as they have been with the exception of less social distancing in the seating bowl."
Blake also said it was important for the team to take season subscribers at the home opener: "While all Rangers ticket buyers and fans are obviously important to us, taking care of season ticket and suite holders has been our priority as fans come back to the ballpark."
After the home opener, the team will sell seats "in pods of two and four seats in socially distanced seating sections for all other games in April," according to Blake.