By ALLAN NOSOFF Editor-In-Chief
The Barclays Center and Madison Square Garden will welcome back fans into their stands Tuesday night, one of the major steps in the reopening of New York state.
Both arenas last held fans for NBA games on March 8, 2020, a whopping 352 days ago.
While packed, sold-out games are still far away, there are many significant changes being made to ensure fans’ safety since the last time both venues held games, pre-pandemic.
Testing is critical to safely enjoy the games, as a negative PCR test is required within 72 hours of gametime, as well as a negative rapid test when entering the arena. Those results are given in about six minutes. These testing protocols also include staff.
The reopening of NYC’s NBA arenas was possible in-part due to the success in safely seating fans for the Buffalo Bills’ AFC Divisional round playoff game with the same testing requirements. And the statewide COVID-19 numbers have been steadily declining over the past month plus, with the positivity rate being the lowest since pre-Thanksgiving.
At the Barclays Center, they say they have installed approximately 450 touchless hand sanitizer dispensers across the arena for fans to use, as well as 2 and 4-person ‘pods’ which they call ‘mini-suites.’ According to John Abbamondi, the CEO of BSE Global, the parent company of the Nets and Barclays Center, “...there are some bar stools and a couch and plexiglass walls on either side to create a little bubble.” And there are no concessions; the food will be delivered to the fans.
The statewide mandate as of Tuesday is for 10% maximum capacity, but the NBA has decided to stay below that threshold until after the NBA All Star game in March. MSG is anticipating just under 2,000 fans for their first game with fans. Tickets are only available to season ticket holders until after the All Star game, only then will they start to be available for all fans.
The Brooklyn Nets host the Sacramento Kings at Barclays Center at 7:30 PM. The New York Knicks host the Golden State Warriors at Madison Square Garden at the same time.