It’s opening day at Oracle Park today, where the San Francisco Giants will play against the Colorado Rockies in their first home game of the year. Usually that means a stream of celebratory fans pouring into the stadium, excited to once again live that baseball lifestyle of beers, Krazy Krab sandwiches, and all the rest.
This year it will look a bit different, starting with the crowd: around 9,000 fans will be in attendance today, roughly 20 percent of Oracle Park’s capacity. That’s a significantly smaller number than the typical swarm of 40,000, but it’s definitely a step up from last season when the seats were filled with cardboard imposters and crowd noise was pumped in to simulate cheers. And fans are lucky to be passing through those doors at all.
“Six weeks ago I didn’t think we’d have fans for opening day,” says Bill Greathouse, VP of Hospitality at Oracle Park for Bon Appetit Management, the company that runs food operations. “Thankfully, things have progressed so fast that now we’re at about 20 percent capacity and it looks like we will increase over the next few weeks, maybe 50 percent in June.” (Just hours after this conversation, San Francisco announced that it would ease restrictions, including allowing 50 percent capacity at outdoor entertainment venues, with proof of vaccination or testing.)
The quick distribution of vaccines, lower case numbers, and vigilance from the public is what Greathouse credits with their opening day successes, and it’s a continued effort. All staff must either be vaccinated or test negative for COVID-19 to work the game, and the same goes for fans. The stadium is divided into eight different zones, from which fans are not allowed to stray, self-contained with concessions and restrooms. Masks must stay on while walking around, and any food and drink can only be consumed once in your seats.
So what is there to eat? Despite the absence of some fan favorites — including those aforementioned crab sandwiches — there is plenty to choose from in the dining department.
Diners can expect Giants dogs, garlic fries, Sheboygan sausages with kraut and caramelized onions (the park’s number one sausage, says Greathouse), Mission Street nachos and burrito bowls, Ghirardelli sundaes, and Tony’s pizza from North Beach’s favorite pizzaiolo Tony Geminagni. You’ll also be able to find an Impossible Burger or a veggie dog with a gluten-free bun, says Greathouse.
“As a food service operation, we’re dealing with things we wouldn’t normally deal with, and that’s true of every restaurant and bar across the country,” says Bill Greathouse, VP of Hospitality at Oracle Park. “We’re trying to streamline it so we can just get open and be effective under these conditions.”
There will not be any hawkers walking through the crowd just yet, either, though peanuts, Cracker Jack, soft pretzels, Nestle Dibs, and all the rest will be available at the Doggie Diners found in each zone. Food can be ordered through the MLB Park app on smart phones for pickup. As for beers, the typical array of more than 100 brews aren’t yet available, though they’ll be back soon, hopefully. Right now the bestsellers are cold and ready for consumption, as well as wines by the carafe, and canned cocktails.
Masks, proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test, social distancing, mobile tickets, pared down concessions and all the rest are all part of the effort to keep the ballpark in operation, and eventually at full capacity. For now, the team and staff are just grateful to be open, rehiring employees, and serving food after a year of doing without. And for fans like Greathouse it’s been a wistful year without his favorite ballpark food.
“I’m a hot dog guy through and through,” says Greathouse. “I’m perfectly suited for the business I’m in. There’s nothing better than sitting there having a hot dog with some mustard on it.”