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New York’s MLB teams approved for fan attendance, Ball Arena sets out plan

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has continued the state’s reopening by announcing that the New York Yankees and New York Mets will be allowed 20% stadium capacity for the new MLB season, while Denver’s Ball Arena will operate at 22% capacity for NBA and NHL games.

For New York, professional sports in large outdoor stadiums that hold 10,000 people or more will be allowed to reopen at 20% capacity. Attendees must show proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test or completed vaccination series prior to entry and are subject to strict state guidance on face coverings, social distancing, and health screening.

The New York State Department of Health will re-evaluate the testing and vaccination entry requirements in May, and if the public health situation continues to improve, they may be discontinued in mid-May. Vaccinations will continue to be administered at Yankee Stadium and Citi Field during the MLB season.

Building on the recent reopening of large professional sports arenas, Cuomo also announced yesterday (Thursday) that smaller, regional sports venues that hold 1,500 people indoors or 2,500 people outdoors can also reopen, beginning April 1. Initial capacity will be limited to 10% indoors and 20% outdoors.

Large outdoor performing arts venues, including stadiums, that hold more than 2,500 people can reopen at 20% capacity, beginning April 1. Cuomo began allowing fans back into stadiums with the Buffalo Bills’ NFL playoffs campaign. The Bills were permitted around 6,772 fans, about 9.4% of capacity at Bills Stadium, for their 27-24 win over Indianapolis Colts on January 9 and for their 17-3 loss to Baltimore Ravens on January 16. Cuomo said: “We did testing. It worked extraordinarily well and was a great demonstration. We’re now going to move forward.″

For the Yankees, yesterday’s announcement will mean up to 10,850 fans for their April 1 home opener against Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium. Yankees managing general partner, Hal Steinbrenner, said: “Our fans have made our home a preeminent worldwide attraction, and their excitement is the catalyst for the championship goals we set every season. We are thrilled to be able to have them back in 2021 and promise them the highest standards for health and safety this season and beyond.

“This will be a very special year in the Bronx, and we will continue to work together with the State of New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City of New York, Major League Baseball, and other health and safety experts to utilise the best and most responsible practices in our facility. We are fully committed to providing a world-class experience at Yankee Stadium in every respect.”

For the Mets, their home opener against the Miami Marlins on April 8 will see Citi Field capped at 8,492 seats. Mets owner, chairman and CEO Steve Cohen said: “We thank Governor Cuomo and the state’s Department of Health for their efforts in this significant step in New York’s recovery from COVID and look forward to continuing to work with them as capacity restrictions and testing requirements hopefully ease in the months ahead – to allow as many fans as possible to have a safe and great time with us.”

All MLB teams are expected to have fans in attendance for the start of the new season, with only the Detroit Tigers and Houston Astros yet to make announcements.

Meanwhile, Kroenke Sports & Entertainment (KSE) has announced that Ball Arena has received capacity variance approval from the Colorado Department of Health and Environment (CDPHE) to host fans for Colorado Avalanche NHL ice hockey and Denver Nuggets NBA basketball games.

Starting on April 2, the venue will accommodate 4,050 fans per ice hockey and basketball game, which is approximately 22% of its overall capacity. KSE, parent company of the two teams and Ball Arena, said the Nuggets game on March 30 and Avalanche game on March 31 will serve as events where frontline staff, health care providers and first responders will be in attendance prior to the first game for ticketed fans on April 2.

“We are thrilled to welcome Avalanche and Nuggets fans to the newly named Ball Arena for the first time,” said KSE chairman and owner Stan Kroenke. “We are grateful to local, state and national health authorities who collaborated with us to get to this point. 

“We also would like to thank our partners at the NHL and NBA, who have worked tirelessly to ensure a safe return for our fans.  This is a major first step in our quest to have a fully packed arena again with some of the greatest fans in sports.”

Earlier this month, MLB team the Colorado Rockies was given clearance to open Coors Field at 42.6% capacity on Opening Day. The State of Colorado approved the capacity, which will mean that 21,363 fans can attend Rockies games, an increase on the previously approved 12,500 fans.

In other news, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has lowered its fan attendance plans for the March Madness basketball event. The NCAA last month said that fans would be allowed during all rounds of the tournament, including the Final Four, with capacity to be restricted to 25%.

However this will now be restricted to a maximum 22% capacity. Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Indianapolis Colts, which will host the Final Four along with games over the first and second weeks, will have 6,900 fans on one court and 8,500 on the other.

The NCAA in January confirmed that the entirety of this year’s March Madness would be played in the state of Indiana, with the city of Indianapolis to stage the majority of games. Bankers Life Fieldhouse, home of the NBA’s Indiana Pacers, is one of a number of other venues and will now be able to host between 2,500 and 3,800 fans (13-19% capacity).

Image: Kanesue/CC BY 2.0/Edited for size