Massachusetts sports venues to welcome back fans

Massachusetts will become the latest US state to reopen its sports venues to fans next month, while arenas in Ohio have been cleared to open at up to 25% capacity.

On March 22, Massachusetts will move into Phase 4 of its reopening plan and Governor Charlie Baker has said that all indoor and outdoor stadiums, arenas and ballparks can open at 12% capacity.

The news has been welcomed by the state’s major-league teams. Major League Baseball’s Boston Red Sox will open Fenway Park at limited capacity for the start of the new season on April 1, with operational plans to be put in place for a socially distanced experience.

Red Sox season ticket holders will be offered the first opportunity to attend regular-season games at Fenway Park, with more details about the plan to be communicated in the coming weeks.

Fenway Park will continue operating as a mass COVID-19 vaccination site beyond the start of the regular season, with the Red Sox to work with state and vaccination site partners to ensure plans are well-coordinated with the Red Sox game schedule.

TD Garden, home of the NHL’s Boston Bruins and the NBA’s Boston Celtics, also issued a statement saying that it “cannot wait” to welcome back fans from March 22. TD Garden has created ‘Play It Safe’, a comprehensive programme designed to ensure the continued health and safety of guests and associates and reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The first Bruins game with fans will be on March 23, with the first Celtics game to be on March 29. Ticketing information for the games will be released by the teams in the coming days.

TD Garden president Amy Latimer said: “We have been working diligently with public health officials and experts for nearly a year to create the highest standards of guidelines and protocols to keep everyone as safe as possible at TD Garden.

“Using these new Play It Safe protocols, following updated guidelines from the CDC, and implementing the GBAC Star arena cleaning standards, we take the reopening of TD Garden very seriously and are committed to the health and safety of our fans while providing a great guest experience.”

Boston’s Gillette Stadium, home to the NFL’s New England Patriots and Major League Soccer’s New England Revolution, has also welcomed Governor Baker’s announcement.

Like Fenway Park, Gillette Stadium has been operating as a vaccination centre and yesterday administered its 100,000th jab. In a statement, stadium officials said the announcement marks an “important step toward a return to normalcy” for Patriots and Revolution fans.

The NFL season does not get underway until September so Patriots fans will still have to wait some time before returning to Gillette Stadium. The MLS season gets underway on April 17 and yesterday’s announcement will mean that Revolution fans can attend games at the venue.

Meanwhile, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has confirmed that sports and entertainment venues in the state will be able to reopen with 25% maximum indoor capacity and 30% maximum outdoor capacity, providing they follow established precautions.

Governor DeWine said earlier this week that stadiums could reopen at 30% capacity in a boost to the Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds MLB teams, as well as MLS teams Columbus Crew and FC Cincinnati.

Indoor arenas will now be able to operate at increased capacity, meaning that more fans can attend games at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, home of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers.

The NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets had previously been able to operate Nationwide Arena at 10% capacity. Following the latest announcement, the club said: “This is great news as it continues to be an indicator that our community and state are heading in the right direction with regards to the pandemic and will allow us to welcome even more fans back to Nationwide Arena.

“It will not impact attendance for our game on Tuesday vs. Detroit, but we expect to receive more details soon and will have updated ticketing information to share with everyone early next week.”

In other news, the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres have detailed plans to begin welcoming fans back to KeyBank Center from March 20. Due to state regulations in New York, attendance will be limited to 10% capacity.

Fans will be required to follow health and safety protocols and provide proof of a negative PCR COVID test within 72 hours of the game. Season ticket holders will be given the first opportunity to select seats.

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