No offense to the good folks in Sioux Falls and their hospitality, but a month holed up in a roadside hotel was enough for the Saints. They’re homesick and want to return to St. Paul.
The Saints got their wish Thursday, announcing they received approval from Gov. Tim Walz’s StaySafeMN task force and the Minnesota Department of Health to return to CHS Field. They’ll be allowed to play in front of a maximum attendance of 1,500 to preserve social distancing.
Their first true home game after 27 away from St. Paul will be Tuesday’s series opener against the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Saints were one of two American Association teams that operated in hub cities, with St. Paul sharing Sioux Falls Stadium with the Sioux Falls Canaries. Now, they’ll play their remaining 18 home games of a truncated 60-game schedule in their Lowertown ballpark.
“Our players are so excited,” Saints General Manager Derek Sharrer said. “We’re so thankful to be moving home but at the same time are so grateful to the Sioux Falls Canaries staff and the Sioux Falls community. They were wonderful hosts. … That said, our guys are ready to be home.”
The Saints finished a three-game series in Fargo on Thursday afternoon and will stay there for a three-game series against the Winnipeg Goldeyes, the hub mate of the RedHawks, from Friday through Sunday. Tuesday’s home opener against the RedHawks begins a six-game homestand, and the Saints will celebrate their 2019 American Association championship that night.
Here are details of how the 1,500-seat maximum at CHS Field will work:
• Six distinct areas around the ballpark with no more than 25% capacity in each area and a maximum of 250 people in each area.
• Reserved and socially distanced seating within those areas.
• Each area will have an exclusive entrance, exclusive restroom facilities and exclusive concession facilities.
• Masks will be required for fans during games at CHS Field but can be removed while seated and/or eating and drinking.
• The concourse will be stanchioned to provide exclusive space for fans in each distinct area.
Because the Saints weren’t receiving ticket revenue from games in Sioux Falls and had their expenses covered by league members, Sharrer said they were better off financially playing in Sioux Falls until CHS Field would be allowed to approach 2,000 in attendance. They were averaging 444 in Sioux Falls. Last year, they averaged a league-best 8,061 at CHS Field.
“The 1,500 is probably 500 less than we hoped for to make it truly economically feasible, but we felt the best path forward was to open our gates under the current guidelines and move forward,” Sharrer said, adding that he’s hopeful the maximum can increase.
The team was facing an internal deadline, too. Had the Saints not been able to return in time for this six-game homestand, they would have had only 12 home games left, beginning Aug. 18. “There’s no question that played into the decisionmaking process,” Sharrer said.
If the Saints find themselves missing their time in Sioux Falls, they shouldn’t worry. They return to South Dakota to face the Canaries on Aug. 11-13.
“Hopefully, we’ll have a triumphant return — albeit short-lived,” Sharrer said.