Some Southern California sports fans and recreation enthusiasts are bound to jump right in. Others will exercise caution. But just about everyone will enjoy an activity on the June 15 statewide reopening, or shortly thereafter, that has been unavailable since the pandemic shutdown began in early 2020.
Whether it’s taking in a game packed to full capacity at Dodger Stadium, tailgating at a USC or UCLA football game, or joining the thundering herd at the L.A. Marathon, the second half of 2021 promises moments we missed for more than a year.
Here are some options for spectators and participants alike:
Hot as Blue blazes: The high temperature June 15 in L.A. is forecast to be 96 degrees, and by evening the Dodgers will get a (very) warm welcome from their first capacity crowd in Chavez Ravine since 2019. Gilding the lily ahead of the game against Philadelphia will be Justin Turner bobbleheads. The next night is a Mookie Betts jersey giveaway, then the Dodgers go on the road for a week. Ticket info.
The Dodgers plan to wear their gold-trimmed championship uniforms on "Reopening Day" tomorrow, when Dodger Stadium returns to full capacity.
Trout gear but no lunker: The Angels return from the road to begin a series with the Detroit Tigers on June 17 at Angel Stadium, and they are pushing for a sellout. The first 5,000 youths under age 14 get a Mike Trout jersey, and the next night is a Mike Trout bobblehead giveaway. Trout in the flesh, though, is not expected to return from the injured list in time for these games. Ticket info.
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Meanwhile, back on the farm: The Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, the Dodgers’ Class-A affiliate, start a six-game homestand June 15. Not only is the price ($12 to $25) right, but contests between innings and fun promotions such as “bring your dog to the ballpark” on June 16 also will hold your interest. Ticket info.
Clippers could join vaccination nation: Staples Center, which has allowed as many as 7,500 fans into the arena for Clippers playoff games, will expand to its full capacity of 20,000 on June 18 if the Clippers force a Game 6 against Utah. Fans will have to show proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test from the previous 72 hours to attend. Ticket info.
U.S. Open-ness: The U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, June 17-20, is sold out, but tickets can be found on the secondary market. Officials say they “will welcome a limited number of fans” because of the reopening. The crowd will be smaller — with about 70,000 tickets sold — than the last time the Open was at Torrey Pines in 2008, when nearly 300,000 fans attended. Ticket info.
Sparks fly: The Sparks begin a homestand at the L.A. Convention Center with games against the Phoenix Mercury on June 16 and 18, followed by home games June 20 against the New York Liberty and June 24 versus the Washington Mystics. Ticket info.
Teen tenacity: Most high school sporting events were attended only by parents this spring, but Cal State Fullerton’s Goodwin Field and Long Beach Blair Field should be rocking with fans during the Southern Section baseball championship games June 18-19.
Return of a tradition: The Drew League, billed as the No. 1 pro-am basketball league anywhere since 1973, resumes June 19. Games will be held at St. John Bosco High in Bellflower because gyms at L.A. Unified schools remain closed.
Star-studded pickup action: Another hoops tradition is NBA and college players convening for informal pickup games throughout the summer at the UCLA men’s gym. Four years ago, a couple of UCLA players beat a team that boasted LeBron James.
Seven-on-seven heaven: High school seven-on-seven passing tournaments can be hugely entertaining, and the best one will be held July 3 at Huntington Beach Edison High. It will feature 20 teams, including powerhouses St. John Bosco and Mater Dei.
Gentlemen playing a hooligan’s sport: Or maybe it’s hooligans playing a gentleman’s sport. Either way, rugby can be enormously entertaining, and now we have our own team: The L.A. Giltinis. The play at the Coliseum next July 4. Ticket info.
Off and running: Turf, meet surf, meet spectators, meet betting windows. Del Mar’s signature summer horse racing meeting opens July 16. The track will open to its full 44,000-person capacity, and tickets must be bought in advance. So, Del Mar should be rocking for the Breeders’ Cup on Nov. 5-6. Santa Anita concludes its meet June 20, and the track may increase capacity for the last few days. Ticket info.
AUGUST AND SEPTEMBER
Chairmen of the board: The U.S. Open of Surfing, billed as “the largest professional action sports competition and festival in the world,” returns after a one-year hiatus at the famed south side of the Huntington Beach Pier Aug. 2-8. Ticket information is not yet available.
Border battle: The Major League Soccer all-star game will pit MLS all-stars against those from Liga MX on Aug. 25 at Banc of California Stadium. It will be the first time the rival leagues from the U.S. and Mexico will go head-to-head. Ticket info.
Major League Soccer will play its midseason all-star game at Banc of California in August after being forced to postpone the match last summer because of COVID-19.
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Barbecue, beer and jollity: Tailgating was sorely missed last fall, so expect packed parking lots and tons of fun at the Coliseum for USC games and the Rose Bowl for UCLA games. The Bruins open at home against Hawaii on Aug. 28, and the Trojans host San Jose State on Sept. 4.
Left turns and pit stops: It’s a bit of a drive, but the closest NASCAR race this season will be the South Point 400 on Sept. 26 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Buffets are opening on the Strip, so there’s that too. Ticket info.
Get your motor running: Motocross can be exciting — if dusty — for spectators. The closest big-time event will be the Pala National Motocross Race on Sept. 4 at Fox Raceway off the Interstate 15 about 10 miles south of Temecula. Ticket info.
Start, stop, start, stop, go! The L.A. Marathon was rescheduled twice because of the pandemic, and the 36th edition of the annual race is set for Nov. 7, the same Sunday as the New York Marathon. It will begin at Dodger Stadium and finish at Avenue of the Stars in Century City, winding through downtown Los Angeles, Little Tokyo, Hollywood and the Westside.
Tons of runs: Runners finally able to pound the pavement again have many options from marathons to 5K runs. The Huntington Beach Surf City Marathon Sept. 11 and the Long Beach Marathon Oct. 9 both expect to draw more than 10,000 runners.
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Don the balaclava: A 22-mile bicycle path known as the Marvin Braude Bike Trail traces a large swath of L.A.’s west-facing coastline. The path starts at Will Rogers State Beach in Pacific Palisades and winds south to Torrance Beach.
Down on the boardwalk ... boardwalk: The four basketball courts next to Muscle Beach along the Venice Beach Boardwalk have long attracted top asphalt talent. Just beware of hoops hustlers like those played by Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson in “White Men Can’t Jump.” Those without the hops for hoops can turn to pickleball.
Take a hike: Seriously, take several. So many awesome trails crisscross SoCal that The Times created a bible for hikers. Be sure not to miss Mt. Hollywood, a moderate trek to the Griffith Park peak, where on a haze-less day the views are breathtaking.
Steve Henson is a reporter with the Fast Break sports team at the Los Angeles Times. He previously served as an assistant editor and reporter in the Sports department. Henson was a leader in digital-only newsrooms from 2007-19 as a senior editor and columnist at Yahoo Sports and as senior editor at the USA Today Sports Media Group. This is his second stint at The Times, having covered the Dodgers and UCLA as well as doing enterprise, investigative and features writing from 1985-2007. Henson was awarded first place in sports features in 2021 by the L.A. Press Club and has been honored several times by the Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) and also by the California News Publishers Assn., the Football Writers Assn. of America and U.S. Basketball Writers Assn.