Vaccinated fans thrilled to take in 1st Winnipeg Goldeyes game in 2 years

Fans took in live minor league baseball from the stands for the first time in nearly two years on Tuesday at the Goldeyes’ home-opener — but they had to prove their vaccination status before they could get in.

Scores of fans filed in long lines outside Shaw Park to see the fish take on the Sioux City Explorers. Park staff scanned physical immunization cards of some fans at the entrance while others presented a barcode on their phone.

“There’s a lot of people and I think that’s what the people miss. It’s the social aspect of it,” said Donn Navidad. “I hope we win.”

The last time he was around so many people was at a Goldeyes game a couple years before the pandemic. He had no reservations about being vaccinated and maskless around crowds.

“Outdoor, no mask needed. Dr. Brent Roussin said.”

In recent months, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin and other provincial officials tied a variety of freedoms to vaccination status, including taking in live sports events.

The Bombers are slated to host their first crowd Thursday at the team’s home opener, and only fully vaccinated guests can attend.

Those under the age of 12 who aren’t vaccinated may attend if accompanied by a fully immunized member of their household.

Fans entering the Winnipeg Goldeyes home opener on Thursday had to flash one of these cards, or show a QR code on their phones, proving their vaccination status in order to get into Shaw Park. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

That much will stay the same, with capacity at pro sports events at 100 per cent, despite a series of other loosened restrictions surrounding gathering and mask use anticipated to come into effect this weekend.

Former Winnipeg mayor Sam Katz, owner of the Goldeyes, says it has been 701 days since the last crowd was at Shaw Park watching baseball.

He said the ball club has lost money each of the past two years. The disruptions have been tough on players and staff alike.

“It’s been a tough grind, let’s just be honest,” he said. “But you know what, here we are at a ball game.”

Two young fans take in the Winnipeg Goldeyes home opener on Tuesday. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

Katz said it was a challenge for the organization to pull everything together in a matter of days for the fully-immunized home-opener crowd, something he suggested normally takes months of preparation. 

“It’s trial and error but everything is OK so far,” he said. “Today’s been a good day just to see fans back in the stands and it’s great for the players, they’re excited.”

Ozy Duncan and his friends were also excited. 

Ozy Duncan took in the game with his friends. He said Tuesday’s crowd was the largest he’s been around since before the pandemic. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

“I haven’t seen this many people in like two years,” said Duncan.

The same was true for young fan Luca Vieira and his family. He was glad to be back in the live sports atmosphere.

“It feels awesome,” said Vieira.

“I think it’s good for our city, good for the community, good for the Goldeyes,” said his father, Mark Vieira.

Luca Vieira said he was hoping to see the Goldeyes hit a home run in the team’s home opener. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

Longtime Goldeyes fan Leon Pincovich, who also plans to take in the Bombers’ home opener this week, said it was tough going so long without sitting in the stands.

“It’s just amazing,” he said through a mask. “To be able to do something that you haven’t been able to do in such a long time is really just a thrill.”

He was undeterred about being around hundreds of people again, many not wearing masks.

“I’m just going to deal with it, worry about me, people who don’t have masks, that’s their choice, and you know, I can only worry about me.”

The Goldeyes host Sioux City again Wednesday and Thursday, and then Milwaukee Friday through Sunday.

Hundreds of people lined up ahead of the Winnipeg Goldeyes home opener Tuesday. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

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