Nearly a year after the NBA shut down, the Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks will welcome roughly 2,000 fans each to their respective games Tuesday night.
The Nets gave a tour Monday to show off the added safety measures in place, and the Barclays Center is providing a free COVID test when you buy a ticket — the only venue in the nation to take such a step.
As soon as you enter, you’ll provide your name where they’ll check for the the required negative PCR test result you received before the game and the health questionnaire you’ve filled out.
Then you sign a waiver, get your free mask, get your temperature checked, and receive an antigen test. Then it’s off to an outdoor heated tent space to wait for your results, which is supposed to take about six minutes.
You’ll get a text or email with your results, and then you’ll head inside.
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“There’ll be three main seating areas,” BSE Global’s John Abbamondi said. “You can see the seats that we’ve designated as socially distanced pods, groups of either two or four seats. In addition, you can see our courtside seating down on the court, again groups of two or four, socially distanced from each other. Further back from the court than they’re normally are, but certainly still the best seat in all of sports. And then the last thing that we’ve done, a little bit of fun that we’ve had, we’ve realized with reduced capacity and a very large building it gave us the opportunity to create some new seating products.”
They’re called the living rooms, 10 self contained mini suites within the seating bowl.
Ushers will also have signs to remind you, to keep your mask on — from a distance.
The food and beverage experience will be different too, with a QR code on your phone to link to a menu. Food and drinks will then be brought to you.
Under the new state rules, any arena that holds more than 10,000 can reopen at 10% capacity, and Madison Square Garden is gearing up for fans as well.
The Knicks will host the Golden State Warriors in front of roughly 2,000 fans Tuesday, followed by the Rangers on February 26 vs. the Boston Bruins.
“We’re very excited,” Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We understand how important our fans are and certainly appreciate all the support that they’ve given us…We’re looking forward to the day when The Garden is full, but we’re excited to have our fans in the building – they’re an important part of our organization.”
Rangers head coach David Quinn also expressed his joy for reopening day.
“Rangers fans are special – and we understand all the support they’ve given us from afar, so we cannot wait for the day The Garden is full,” Quinn said. “Even if it’s just a couple thousand fans to start, we’re beyond excited to see them in the stands and hear their energy during the game.”
MSG Sports says they have taken a fan-friendly approach to the reopen, ensuring as many fans as possible have the opportunity to purchase tickets. Tickets to each game are being made available first to season ticket members and suite holders and then to the general public, all at varying price points, starting at $50.
The two teams started with their first three games, which for the Knicks includes the Warriors on Feb. 23, Sacramento Kings on Feb. 25 and Indiana Pacers on Feb. 27. The Rangers first three games are against the Bruins on Feb. 26 and 28 and Buffalo Sabres on March 2.
“New York has been through a lot this year, especially through COVID,” Knicks forward Obi Toppin said. “And for us to have the opportunity to play in front of fans is definitely going in the right direction…I’ve dreamed of this moment since I was a young kid, playing in this amazing arena with all these amazing fans and for the day to finally be here is amazing.”
Rangers center Ryan Strome says he is excited to have fans back in the building.
“Even though it’s fun to play and we know the fans are watching on TV, it’s not the same without them in the building and rooting us on,” Strome said. “We’re excited to grow the capacity in the rink here and get back to what we know best at MSG.”
Officials say both the Knicks and Rangers organizations will recognize and honor various essential and frontline workers that have worked so tirelessly over the pandemic. This will include having them attend games as invited guests and highlighting their impact during in-game presentations or via game telecasts.
“Our job is sports – we love what we do, and take great pride in representing our city,” Quinn said. “But we stand in awe of the people who dedicate their lives to keeping us safe and healthy and going every day – especially during these tough times. We can’t thank them enough. They are our heroes.”
But it’s not just the teams and the fans that are excited for venues to start reopening — it’s the businesses surrounding the venues too.
So many small businesses capitalize on crowds from sports events and concerts, including Evan Franca who opened Brooklyn Crepe across from Barclays.
He started construction when COVID shut everything down.
“There’s been a lot of frustration just trying to stay open and you know trying to keep your staff employed and trying to keep the customers happen and everything, it’s not been an easy year,” Franca said. “We’re excited, we’re excited to get any people in the stadium, any action around here is just is gonna be positive.”
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