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Oregon has updated its capacity limits for outdoor recreation and entertainment venues.

PMG FILE PHOTO - Hillsboro Hops mascot Barley T. Hop holds up a sign during game one of the Northwest League Championships against the Tri-City Dust Devils on Sept. 7, 2019.A tweak to the way Oregon will limit capacity at outdoor recreation and entertainment venues could mean cheering fans at Ron Tonkin Field when the Hillsboro Hops' long-awaited 2021 season gets underway.

The Hops are scheduled to open their season at home on May 4. It's the earliest start date ever for the Hops, who previously were a Class A Short Season team but will now play an extended season as part of the new High-A West circuit.

The minor league baseball team, an affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks, boasts consistently strong attendance numbers at the ballpark, which has a maximum capacity of 4,500.

But with Oregon's health and safety restrictions due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, it wasn't clear that the Hops would be able to open the gates and welcome in fans by the time the season starts.

Instead of limiting outdoor venues to a set number of people, as under the old restrictions, venues will now be allowed to fill up a certain percentage of their maximum capacity, the Oregon Health Authority announced Wednesday, March 17.

Washington County, where Ron Tonkin Field is located, is currently designated as a "moderate risk" jurisdiction for the spread of COVID-19. Under the new rules, outdoor venues in "moderate risk" counties will be able to have up to 25% occupancy.

If Washington County moves to "lower risk," that capacity would increase to 50%.

The change means the Hops could potentially allow more than 1,000 spectators on Opening Day, although it will be up to the team and stadium operator, Hillsboro Parks & Recreation, to decide.

For their part, the Hops greeted the announcement with exuberance.

KL Wombacher, the Hops' president and general manager, told the Pamplin Media Group that he was aware the change was coming, but he was "very happy" to see it officially announced Wednesday.

More information will be forthcoming from the team on what the change means for the Hops, Wombacher added.

The Pamplin Media Group also reached out to Hillsboro Parks & Recreation for comment.

By Mark Miller
Editor-in-Chief, Washington and Columbia counties
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