Detroit police, health officials: No tailgating for Tigers home opener

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Detroit — Forget about the traditional Detroit Tigers home opener festivities or bending pandemic-related capacity and social distancing rules. 

Detroit police and health officials say they will be keeping close watch Thursday as fans head to Comerica Park to watch the Tigers play the Cleveland Indians. 

The event, officials warn, won't be marked with crowds of people packed together for cookouts in parking lots near the stadium.

Comerica Park

"Tailgating is prohibited," said Detroit Police Cpl. Dan Donakowski. "We're going to be monitoring the situation and have an adequate supply of officers down there. Obviously, we want everybody who comes down to have a good time, but we want them to follow the guidelines of the COVID restrictions."

Detroit's Health Department said it's been cracking down on businesses violating state-imposed COVID regulations. 

So far, the office has issued about 80 civil infractions to restaurants and bars in the city for offenses including failure to wear masks by employees and customers as well as social distancing, capacity and curfew violations, Chief Public Health Officer Denise Fair told Detroit's City Council on Tuesday. 

"We are supporting small businesses," she said. "But we are holding them accountable and the residents are helping us."

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's administration announced one week ago that it will allow up to 20% of capacity at outdoor stadiums, including Comerica Park.

The new order from the state's Department of Health and Human Services came just days after a group of GOP lawmakers called on Whitmer to ease a prior cap that would have allowed just 1,000 fans to attend the first Tigers game. 

The order permits more than 8,200 fans to attend the game Thursday as well as succeeding games. 

The Tigers had said they anticipated the attendance cap would be raised. The Whitmer administration's order puts the state in line with Pennsylvania, where the Philadelphia Phillies and Pittsburgh Pirates are allowed up to 20% capacity. Among other nearby states, Ohio is allowing the Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians to have up to 30% capacity, while Wisconsin and Minnesota are allowing the Milwaukee Brewers and Minnesota Twins to have 25% capacity.

Comerica Park can seat 41,083 fans, so a 20% capacity limit means the Tigers could accommodate up to 8,217 fans.

Donakowski declined to say Friday how many officers will be keeping watch over fans, but said officers on the ground will make sure everybody complies.

"If we see situations that require addressing, we will address them," he said. 

Police, he added, will aid the city's health department in ensuring compliance with restaurants and bars. 

Fair on Tuesday provided an update to Detroit's council on Michigan's latest COVID-19 order and addressed concerns over the potential for a spike in cases of the virus stemming from Thursday's activities. 

Fair said she and her team have spent hours with the Detroit Tigers to review their plans, conducted walk-throughs and are "very impressed with their protocols."

"So far, we're very comfortable with what we're seeing," Fair said. "They have social distancing measures, everything is cashless, the seats are spread out throughout the auditorium. We are very pleased with what we are seeing."

Ron Colangelo, a spokesman for the Detroit Tigers, said in an email Friday that "we certainly discourage tailgating and it will not be permitted around the parameter of the ballpark." 

"We couldn’t be more excited to begin welcoming the great Tigers fans safely back to Comerica Park," Colangelo said. "Safety is our top priority, and we have developed a plan that allows us to confidently provide fans a safe and entertaining experience. We’ve missed the fans, and so have the players, and we can’t wait until Opening Day."

He added safety protocols for anyone attending the game can be found at tigers.com.

Scott Withington, an environmental health officer for Detroit's Health Department, added plans for the stadium itself look "very promising" and city health officials will be keeping tabs on bars and restaurants that typically draw fans.

Fair said the state's latest emergency order permits no more than six people per table at each establishment and that each table should be spaced 6 feet apart.

Patrons aren't permitted to gather in common areas of bars or restaurants and the businesses are required to report any COVID-19 positive staffers to the health department.

Restaurant seating capacity, she noted, is 50%, with a 100-person maximum per location and eating and drinking must end by 11 p.m.

Fair said the health department receives multiple complaints daily and its environmental health team is responding on the same day or within 24 hours to investigate. 

A task force of police, Detroit Department of Neighborhoods, Department of Public Works officials and fire marshal staff also are aiding with inspections and surveillance.

cferretti@detroitnews.com