The Milwaukee Bucks became the latest NBA team to return fans to their arena for yesterday’s (Tuesday’s) game against the Toronto Raptors, while NHL franchise Vegas Golden Knights is seeking up to 20% capacity at T-Mobile Arena.
Tuesday’s clash with the Raptors at Fiserv Forum (pictured), which ended in a 124-113 defeat for the Bucks, was preceded by an announcement concerning fan attendance. While the Milwaukee Health Department has approved the arena hosting fans at 10% capacity, approximately 1,800 fans, the Bucks initiated a phased-in approach covering three games.
For the Raptors encounter, 250 player families and invited guests were allowed entry, with this rising to 500 on Thursday against Toronto, and 750 on Friday against the Oklahoma City Thunder. A return of the general public is set to take place on Sunday, when approximately 1,800 fans will have access for the game against the Sacramento Kings.
Following the conclusion of the first half of the 2020-21 NBA season, the Milwaukee Health Department will reassess the Bucks’ plan to increase capacity to 25% for the second half of the campaign.
The Bucks announced in November that its games at Fiserv Forum would be played without fans “until further notice” in accordance with state and local COVID-19 guidelines. Initial health and safety protocols for the return of fans include that fans will be required to wear face coverings at all times when inside Fiserv Forum, except when actively eating or drinking.
All tickets will be sold in pods of two or four seats to ensure proper social distancing throughout the seating bowl, with only mobile ticketing utilised. All fans seated within 30 feet of the court will be required to receive a rapid COVID-19 test before entering Fiserv Forum.
“We are beyond excited to welcome back our great fans to Bucks games, even in a limited capacity,” said Bucks and Fiserv Forum president Peter Feigin. “Our fans have been deeply missed by the players, coaches and Bucks and arena staffs, and we are thrilled to open our doors once again. While we are still in the midst of a pandemic, and our lives are not back to normal, this is a positive step for the Bucks and the City.”
Meanwhile, the move from the Golden Knights comes after Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak last week confirmed that COVID-19 restrictions will be relaxed to permit sporting events as large gatherings. Previous restrictions had capped large gatherings at a limit of 50 people, and the Golden Knights have confirmed they will seek 20% capacity, or around 3,500 fans, once this is permitted from March 1.
The team is due to face Minnesota Wild on that day and has a further 17 home games scheduled. Golden Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon told the Las Vegas Sun newspaper: “Fans are going to make a world of a difference and I know they’re anxious to get back and watch us. We’re anxious to have them.”
The Golden Knights games this season have included two encounters at the Arizona Coyotes, where fans are permitted. McCrimmon added: “It really was a much better atmosphere than the games we’ve been part of with no fans. We can’t wait to get people back in our building.”