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It’s trending right way for Giants fans to return to Oracle Park



Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

For 49ers fans hopeful to see their team in person, the news was great and then not great. On Tuesday, the state of California gave the OK for customers to sit in seats again — shortly before the home of Levi’s Stadium reminded who has the final call.

“Audiences at professional sporting events will not be allowed anytime soon in Santa Clara County,” the county’s public health department said in a statement.

There might not be time for Santa Clara to host an NFL game, the 49ers’ last home regular-season contest Jan. 3. But for Giants fans hopeful to see their team in person, Tuesday was less a roller-coaster and more a steady avenue of optimism that 2021 will be better for in-person sports than 2020.

The Giants are working on plans that will ensure fans can return to seats that only cardboard cutouts occupied in the 60-game campaign this year. A greenlight from the state, which said stadiums and parks in “orange tier” counties can seat up to 20 percent of capacity, is especially encouraging because San Francisco is now a step up from the orange tier.

As of Tuesday, The City is no longer in the moderate-risk category, but now elevated into the less-restrictive yellow tier, the only Bay Area county with the distinction. Mayor London Breed announced plans for reopening offices at 25 percent capacity as well as upping gyms to 25 percent full, while activities like climbing gyms will soon reopen.

In the face of a pandemic that has been a miserable part of life since March, Santa Clara is not ready for a return to normalcy when a further outbreak could be risked. It is becoming easier to see scenarios in which San Francisco will be ready by April 9, 2021, when the Giants are set to open their home schedule against the Rockies. With a payroll that partially will be shaped by if and how many fans can fill Oracle Park, the gates being open in April would be significant for so many reasons.

“We are already deep into plans for next year, including developing health and safety protocols to create the safest possible environment for your return to Oracle Park,” CEO Larry Baer, president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi and manager Gabe Kapler said in a letter to fans two weeks ago.

The Giants will continue working with a city that is typically a bit more careful than the state in terms of opening up again, fearful of more cases. But there are encouraging signs — one green, one yellow — that the club can make more money and fans can see the product.