The Nashville Predators have outlined plans to become the latest NHL ice hockey team to return fans to their arena, while NBA franchise the Miami Heat has said it will use COVID-19 Detection Dogs as fans go back to AmericanAirlines Arena next week.

The Predators had the option to have fans at Bridgestone Arena (pictured) for the first three home games of the season after the Metro Public Health Department approved 15% capacity, but chose not to pursue this.

However, the franchise yesterday (Thursday) said a “limited number” of tickets would be made exclusively available to season ticket holders for the January 26-27 games against the Chicago Blackhawks.

To achieve this, the Predators have launched the Loyal Legion Ticket Lottery. To operate within the parameters of the Smashville Safe policies and Tennessee Venue Pledge while offering all season-ticket holders the opportunity to experience live hockey this season, tickets will be sold in seating pods with two seats included in each pod.

With the goal of establishing an exclusive and equitable opportunity for season-ticket holders to attend games during the 2020-21 season, the Loyal Legion Ticket Lottery will use four criteria to weight each persons’ odds of gaining access to purchase the limited number of physically distanced seating pods.

Odds of winning will be weighted using the following criteria: season-ticket tenure, package type, number of tickets on account and purchasing history of past lottery winners. As the season progresses, the Predators said that if the effective implementation of all Bridgestone Arena safety policies remains possible, the team will work to not only expand the number of fans, including single-game ticket buyers, but also the number of seats available within each seating pod.

“It is no secret that the energy and passion of the Loyal Legion have cemented Smashville as an unbeatable environment for our fans and our players,” said Nashville Predators senior vice-president of ticket sales, premium sales and youth hockey, Nat Harden.

“In hosting the first three games of the 2020-21 season without those dedicated fans in attendance, their absence was apparent, and they were sorely missed. As we continue to work with the Board of Health and many other groups to ensure the health and safety of every person who steps foot inside of Bridgestone Arena, we are confident in our plan to gradually increase attendance at our games and cannot wait until the day when 17,159 of the best fans in sports can join us once again.”

Meanwhile, the Heat will begin returning fans to AmericanAirlines Arena from the January 28 game against the Denver Nuggets, and have an innovative plan in place to address the COVID-19 threat. The Heat are set to welcome around 1,500 season-ticket holders and ahead of the game have released a COVID-19 safety guide.

Included in these guidelines are the use of COVID-19 Detection Dogs. Fans will be scanned by the dogs when they arrive at AmericanAirlines Arena and will have to take part in a mandatory health screening questionnaire.

If a dog detects the virus, the fan and those in their travel party will not be allowed to enter the arena. Those not comfortable with being screened by a dog will have an alternative testing option, but the Heat said this could take up to 45 minutes to conduct.

Those sitting within 30 feet of the court will have to take an on-site rapid test before the game and be cleared by the Heat’s testing provider. Social distancing measures will be enforced, with fans required to stay six feet apart. The full guidelines are available here.

Image: Stephen Yeargin/CC BY-SA 2.0/Edited for size