As COVID-19 restrictions are loosened as cases and deaths decline, NHL teams are preparing for the return of arena fans as early as next week, subject to approval of local health officials.
We’ve already reported on Gov. Andrew Cuomo approving New York arena openings, paving the way for Madison Square Garden, Nassau Coliseum and Barclays Center to welcome a limited number of fans to NHL and NBA games. And with reported cases, deaths and positivity rates in free fall, the sports and entertainment industries are seeing a loosening of venue restrictions, whether it be tens of thousands of fans planned for MLB ballparks or smaller crowds allowed for NBA, NHL and college-basketball play.
In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy has approved an opening of his state’s arenas at 10 percent capacity for indoor venues holding 5,000 or more and 15 percent capacity for outdoor venues. That means the New Jersey Devils will be welcoming fans to Prudential Center beginning March 2.
“This is a day toward which our entire staff has been planning, working and looking forward to for the past 11 months,” said New Jersey Devils President Jake Reynolds. “Those who enter the building will feel confident that our process and protocols are focused on making their safety the number one priority. That includes maximizing social distancing, minimizing contact and using products and technology to ensure the wellbeing, safety and enjoyment of our fans and attendees. The fan’s journey has been developed to provide consumer confidence from the street to the seat, and we can’t wait to feel their energy welcome them back to the Prudential Center to cheer and celebrate Devils’ victories in person.”
That same 10 percent threshold is the one used by Gov. Mike DeWine to allow Ohio venues to open. In Nevada, the state’s Department of Business and Industry is allowing T-Mobile Arena to open at 15 capacity, or 2,600 fans, for Vegas Golden Knights games. We expect other states to move forward quickly with arena reopenings in the same capacity range.
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