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Fans to return in New Jersey

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has increased capacity limits for large sports and entertainment venues in the state, while more teams across the NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball have been approved to welcome back fans.

From March 1, large sports and entertainment venues in New Jersey with a fixed seating capacity of 5,000 or more will be permitted to host fans equal to 10% of capacity indoors and 15% of capacity outdoors. Facilities must ensure that attendees remain six feet apart from others. Mask-wearing will also be required, except when spectators are eating or drinking.

The announcement means that MetLife Stadium, home of the NFL’s New York Jets and New York Giants, will be able to open at 15% capacity from March 1. Although the 2021 NFL season does not get underway until September, MetLife Stadium welcomed the decision.

A statement from the Giants, Jets and MetLife Stadium said: “As the months go on, we are hopeful that the data will continue to be positive and the number of people allowed into MetLife Stadium will steadily increase. The health and safety of our fans, players, staff, and those in our communities remain our top priority and we will continue to follow the guidance of Governor Murphy and state health officials.”

The New Jersey Devils NHL team will also be able to open Prudential Center at 10% capacity following Governor Murphy’s announcement. The Devils will welcome fans back to the arena on March 2 for the game against the New York Islanders.

The announcement comes after neighbouring New York earlier this month laid out its reopening plan, which will see venues with a capacity of 10,000 or more permitted to stage events with a limited number of fans from today (Tuesday).

In other news, the New Orleans Pelicans NBA team has announced that its arena capacity will increase to 2,700 fans for tomorrow’s game against the Detroit Pistons at the Smoothie King Center.

The Pelicans began the season with 800 fans in the arena before this increased to 1,440 fans at the end of January. A further increase will be brought in for tomorrow’s game and the Pelicans hope to welcome more than 4,000 fans in the future.

The Pelicans will follow the same health and safety procedures that the NFL’s New Orleans Saints implemented when welcoming fans back. Protocols in place at the Smoothie King Center will include health screening, face coverings, social distancing, pod seating and contactless accommodations.

Meanwhile, in the NHL, the Vegas Golden Knights have been cleared to welcome fans back to T-Mobile Arena, albeit fewer than they had requested.

The Golden Knights last week confirmed they would be seeking 20% capacity, or around 3,500 fans, once COVID-19 restrictions are eased in Nevada from March 1. The Nevada Department of Business and Industry said yesterday that T-Mobile Arena can reopen, but only at 15% capacity, meaning that around 2,600 fans will be permitted.

The Golden Knights have sold out every single home game since debuting in the NHL in 2017.

Elsewhere, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has said that stadiums could reopen at 30% capacity from April in a boost to the state’s Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer teams.

The MLB season begins on April 1 and the news will enable the Cleveland Indians and the Cincinnati Reds to welcome a significant number of fans back to Progressive Field and Great American Ball Park, respectively.

Governor DeWine’s comments will also provide a boost to Ohio’s two MLS teams, Columbus Crew and FC Cincinnati ahead of the start of the new season on April 17.

The Columbus Blue Jackets NHL team has already been cleared to open Nationwide Arena at 10% capacity from March 2.

Image: Anthony Quintano/CC BY 2.0/Edited for size