FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Fort Wayne's NBC) - The TinCaps' season opener helped many downtown local businesses, and brought hope as many businesses continue to recover from its financial struggles caused by the pandemic.
It has been more than 600 days since the Fort Wayne TinCaps played a game in front of fans. However, that all changed on Tuesday.
The TinCaps played against the West Michigan Whitecaps, and the first pitch was thrown at 7:05 p.m.
Fort Wayne's NBC News caught up with several passionate fans at a tailgate to get their reaction about the season opener.
"We couldn't do it last year," said Michael Alexander, a TinCaps fan. "So everyone was able to come this year, and we're super stoked about it."
"At this moment, it kind of feels normal, if that makes sense," said Joel Herstad, a TinCaps fan. "It's been a long time of not being normal."
Fort Wayne's NBC News went inside the ballpark and talked with fans about the long-awaited game.
"Seeing those gates open today, and knowing these kids (players) can chase their dreams, and the staff is back working. It's a great day," Jim Garigen, a TinCaps fan, said.
Tuesday's game was a special day for TinCaps fans, however, it was also a big moment for many nearby businesses in downtown.
Many local businesses have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and many are still continuing to recover.
To learn more about how the TinCaps' season opener affects nearby businesses, Fort Wayne's NBC News talked with management at Rudy's located at 409 West Brackenridge Street.
"It's a great day," said Rudy Mahara, the owner of Rudy's. "It signifies that we've turned the corner. The TinCaps are a vital part of Fort Wayne. Not only when they play a game, but because of the attention they bring to downtown."
Fort Wayne's NBC News also stopped by Copper Spoon located at 301 West Jefferson Boulevard.
Management said when the TinCaps play at home, many managers of nearby businesses get excited because it brings many potential customers to downtown Fort Wayne. This helps many local restaurants, shops, and bars, management added.
Preston Wallace said he enjoys the energy the TinCaps games bring to downtown.
"It's amazing to see after the challenging last few months and year that we've had," said Preston Wallace, a hospitality and service manager at Copper Spoon. "So bringing people from all around the city of Fort Wayne to a common cause, and supporting our community is the best thing we can possibly do."
Leaders with the TinCaps said capacity was limited to 3,000 fans to help limit the spread of COVID-19. Roughly 2,600 tickets were sold for the game, officials said.
Officials with the TinCaps said several safety measures were enforced at the game, including the following:
- Masks are required
- Social distancing is required
- Social distancing through seating charts and seating pods
- Fans can only purchase food, beverages, apparel, and accessories with debit and credit cards. Cash payments are prohibited to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Officials said they are working closely with the Allen County Department of Health to keep fans safe, and the safety measures listed above will be enforced at all games.
The TinCaps beat the West Michigan Whitecaps, 8-0, during their home opener Tuesday night. The team will continue to play against the Whitecaps at home until Sunday.
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