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‘We’ve counted every day’: Whitecaps excited about possibility of having more fans at ballpark

Gov. Whitmer introduces ‘MI Vacc to Normal’ plan, saying that if state gets to 60 percent of adults ages 16 and older vaccinated, then capacities at sports stadiums may increase to 25 percent.
Posted at 8:14 PM, Apr 29, 2021

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Michigan may be back to normal by the end of the summer, but Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said it all depends on the vaccination rate.

“If you haven’t already gotten your shot, today’s a great day to get your shot,” Whitmer said just before she received her second shot at DeVos Place on Thursday afternoon. “After I get mine here in a few minutes, I am, like I said, making some plans for what reconnection looks like with people I haven’t seen in over a year. I’m very excited about that. As we keep ramping up our vaccinations, we can all see the light at the end of this tunnel. It’s getting brighter. But, we’re still in the tunnel.”

Thursday morning she announced the Michigan Vacc to Normal challenge, stating that once the state reaches 55 percent of adults ages 16 and older vaccinated, employers may lift the work-from-home order, and once it hits 60 percent, capacity at indoor sports stadiums will increase to 25 percent.

SEE MORE: Gov. Whitmer outlines steps toward relaxed COVID-19 restrictions

“If we get 25 percent, that means about 2,500 people would be in this ballpark,” said Steve VanWagoner, director of marketing and media relations with the West Michigan Whitecaps. “We’ve got plenty of room to space people out and be distanced. We’re asking our fans to come with a mask.”

VanWagoner said they’ve been following CDC guidelines since the pandemic hit last March. He said it was a pretty heartbreaking time considering they had to lay off staff. However, this season is already beginning on a better note.

“Not only are we hearing that more people are being vaccinated and better weather [is coming], all those things happening would elevate our capacities,” VanWagoner said during an interview with FOX 17 on Thursday. “But also we just released our roster. We’re a high-A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers now. So, people like Spencer Torkelson--the first-ever all-around No. 1 Draft pick--will be here in West Michigan to play baseball. It just keeps getting better and better.”

Currently Michigan is at 48.8% vaccinated. The Whitecaps know as vaccinations rise, they could have a full ballpark by the end of the season. It's something they're excited to see considering it's been over 600 days since they've seen large groups like that.

“We’ve counted every day,” VanWagoner said with a smile. “We know at 6:35 p.m. on May 11 when that first pitch gets thrown, it is going to be a great celebration.”

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