The Utah Jazz has announced that home games at Vivint Arena will initially be played with a limited number of fans when the new NBA season commences next month.

Amid a series of enhanced health and safety measures implemented throughout the building during COVID-19 in consultation with the Utah Department of Health, the Jazz said the arena will reopen with a reduced seating capacity of 1,500 in the lower bowl only and limited seating on the suite level.

Lower and upper bowl season ticket members will be given priority access for socially distanced seating at Jazz games during the arena’s limited capacity. Jazz president Jim Olson said: “The Jazz believe this is a responsible way to start the season from a public health and safety standpoint. Our intent is to increase the number of fans as the season unfolds in compliance with state guidelines.

“We want to reassure our guests that we are taking the utmost precautions to have a safe and enjoyable experience as they return. We are optimistic for the future and continue to closely monitor the public health situation with State of Utah, Salt Lake County, and Salt Lake City officials as well as the NBA.”

Any preseason games at Vivint Arena will be played without fans next month. The league recently announced that the 2020-21 NBA season will begin on December 22 and continue through May. The Jazz and Vivint Arena have partnered with Alsco to deliver essential products to safeguard public health, including hand sanitiser dispensers, masks, gloves and hospital-grade cleaning solutions. 

For the reintroduction of fans, Vivint Arena, the 18,306-seat home of the Jazz in downtown Salt Lake City, will implement several safety measures and protocols due to the pandemic, including mandatory face coverings, mobile entry and screening procedures at all entrances, plexiglass barriers at point of sale locations, and social distancing signage.

The arena has earned its Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC) certification, an NBA requirement for return to play, for its cleaning, disinfection and infectious disease prevention protocols. The arena has also signed the ‘Stay Safe to Stay Open’ pledge, a partnership between the Salt Lake Chamber and the Utah Department of Health.

“The Utah Jazz have always been an important part of our community, and the team is making every effort to be an example for how we can start to safely resume these types of activities,” said Rich Saunders, interim executive director of the Utah Department of Health.

The Jazz is one of a few NBA teams to have formally committed to a return of fans for the new season. Earlier this week, the Milwaukee Bucks announced that its games at Fiserv Forum will be played without fans “until further notice” in accordance with state and local COVID-19 guidelines.

The NBA concluded its 2019-20 season at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Florida, with all games played on a single campus in a ‘bubble’ environment. Teams are now able to play at their home arenas for the new season and it was reported this month that the NBA will require fans within 30 feet of the court to test negative for COVID-19 as part of protocols issued to all 30 teams.

It was announced last week that the Toronto Raptors, the NBA’s only Canadian team, will start the season at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida due to travel-related COVID-19 restrictions. The Raptors had sought to open the season at its Scotiabank Arena home but the current public health situation in Canada and the “urgent need” to determine where the team will play led to the decision to head to Amalie Arena.

Elsewhere in the NBA, the Golden State Warriors last week saw plans for a rapid COVID-19 testing scheme that would have allowed Chase Center to operate at 50% capacity rejected by San Francisco health officials.

The Oklahoma City Thunder have previously detailed plans to have a “limited number of fans and guests” at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

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