SAN DIEGO — Hours before the first pitch, East Village came alive with Padres fans.
"I'm excited for San Diego. I'm excited for the Padres....been fans for a long time so I'm pumped," said Kevin Bong, who had a ticket to the game.
Restaurants surrounding the stadium had fans lined up in the morning.
Social Tap co-owner Brant Crenshaw said the past year has been a challenge, but with the Padres season now underway, and more things opening up, he's starting to feel optimistic.
"Downtown and East Village has been a dead zone here for quite a while, so we're really happy to have some activity and life back and energizing it," Crenshaw said.
Down the street at Bub's, co-owner Todd Brown feels the same, though he's frustrated it's taken this long to get here.
"We're looking forward to taking the next step and getting 50% and then eventually getting back to where we can have a block party and get the people that do social events and you know the special event stuff. Those people haven't been able to do anything," Brown said.
Padres CEO Erik Greupner said Thursday's Opening Day was a long time coming.
He said the organization was "confident" that a number of new health and safety measures being implemented at Petco Park will make it "one of the safest places for our fans to be in San Diego."
Along with reduced capacity, the Padres are using contactless technology for its ticketing, retail and food sales. Fans are able to order food and beverages for pickup or in-seat delivery through the MLB Ballpark app.
There were some issues ordering concessions on the app Thursday. Mike Ragoza said he ordered a beer and got it in 15 minutes but there were problems after that.
"We ordered food and beer, we never got anything. Literally hours," said Ragoza.
He said he was still charged despite not receiving the food or drink so he reported it to a Petco Park employee.
Padres CEO Erik Greupner sent News 8 the following statement on the issues:
“Guest experience and safety is our top priority. Given the new State regulations that require completely remote and contactless concessions service, we encountered issues at today’s game trying to implement this requirement at scale across our entire ballpark. We are working to address these issues, including issuing refunds for anyone who paid for but did not receive their concessions items. We will continue to improve this process as we deal with a challenging set of new operating requirements.”
Fans are also now seated in socially distant "seating pods" and the park features signage and spacing markers throughout the park to promote proper distancing.
"It was a lot of fun but different with the separation," said Robert Cortez.
Masks are required to be worn except when fans are actively eating or drinking in their seat. Children two years old or younger do not have to wear face coverings.
"It’s so surreal to be back in a baseball stadium," said Sheena South.
Most outside food and beverages are not permitted into the park, though fans are allowed to bring a factory-sealed plastic bottled water that is still, clear and unflavored and that is 1 liter or less, as well as soft-sided single juice or milk containers or Americans with Disabilities Act- required liquids in a sealed container.
Bags are also prohibited with the exception of 6.5-inch-by-4.5- inch small clutch purses, infant and medical bags.
Following a second-place finish for the Padres in the National League West in the coronavirus-shortened 2020 season, during which they finished with a winning record for the first time since 2010 and advanced to the National League Division Series, optimism is high for an even better 2021 season, thanks in part to the off-season acquisitions of pitching stars such as Darvish and Blake Snell.
Baseball Prospectus' proprietary PECOTA system projects the Padres will win 95 games, second-most in the National League behind the defending World Series-champion Los Angeles Dodgers, who are projected to win 104.
FanGraphs says the Padres have a 92.3% chance of qualifying for the playoffs, a 30.2% chance of winning the National League West and an 11% chance of winning the World Series, the fourth-highest in MLB behind the Dodgers (22.2%), New York Yankees (17.6%) and New York Mets (11.2%).
Watch: Tips so you don’t strike out when heading to Padres games this season