(ATTN: ADDS details in para 5; FIXES word 'without' in para 4)
By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, June 30 (Yonhap) -- When fans return to baseball stadiums sometime in July, they will be asked to sit apart from one another to maintain a safe distance. And they'll not be allowed to bring in any outside food.
This will be part of a new normal in fan experience in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) during the coronavirus pandemic.
The KBO released a new health and safety manual for fans Tuesday, as it prepares to swing open gates to baseball enthusiasts.
The 2020 season opened on May 5 without fans in the stands amid the pandemic, and the league's 10 clubs have been struggling financially with zero gate revenue. In a welcome relief, the government announced Sunday that sports stadiums would reopen on a limited basis, as long as teams adhere to stringent quarantine measures.
To that end, the KBO put out the manual to ensure safe environments across the league's nine stadiums. The league is hoping to have fans back by Friday, for the start of a new three-game weekend series.
Ryu Dae-hwan, KBO's secretary general, said the teams are prepared to welcome back fans on relatively short notice as long as the government gives the go-ahead.
Fans must wear masks and keep them on during the course of the game. When they stand in a line at the entrance, bathrooms or concession stands, they must maintain a safe distance from others.
Teams will put stickers, set 1 meter apart, on their stadium floors to indicate where fans should stand.
Fans must go through temperature checks at the gate, and those who check in at over 37.5 C will be turned away.
Once inside the stands, they must also sit at least one seat from each other, even when they have company.
Though cheering is a major part of KBO fan experience, it will be missing during the pandemic. The KBO manual says singalongs, chanting and other types of cheering that may include contact will be limited.
Tickets can only be purchased in advance online with credit cards, so that health authorities will be able to trace contact information in case of positive COVID-19 tests. Box offices at stadiums will be closed to minimize person-to-person contact.
The KBO said fans will be strongly discouraged from buying tickets from scalpers because it is illegal, and it poses infection risks through direct contact or droplets.
Concession stands will be open on a limited bases but eating from the seats and bringing food from outside will be prohibited. Fans will have to consume their food in the concession areas.
While in their seats, fans will only be allowed to drink water and non-alcoholic beverages.
Teams will only sell tickets to reserve seats at first, and other ballpark amenities, such as children's playgrounds, will be closed to prevent a crowd from gathering. Smoking rooms will remain shuttered.
Fans will be discouraged from bringing in preschool children due to safety concerns, and those who come in with young children will be asked to take extra care.
"There will be some inconvenience for our fans following these restrictions during the pandemic," the KBO said. "However, in order to prevent COVID-19 infections and to ensure a safe viewing experience, we'll need our fans to follow these rules."
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