Governor of New Jersey, Phil Murphy, announced this morning that the state will allow limited crowds for professional and college sports. As reported by Matt Arco at NJ.com:
Parents of college athletes will be allowed to attend games effective immediately, the governor said. Venues with 5,000 seating capacity or more will be allowed to have 10% capacity at indoor games for the Devils, Rutgers and Seton Hall basketball beginning March 1 at 6 a.m.
Outdoor venues including minor league baseball can operate at 15% capacity beginning next week.
“Everybody’s got to do the stuff that we’re all used to these days: face coverings and social distancing,” Murphy said during an appearance on WFAN radio.
As a result of the announcement, the Prudential Center has announced that they will indeed open up the arena to 10% capacity starting with the New Jersey Devils game against the New York Islanders on March 2. Given that the arena has an official capacity of 16,514 for New Jersey Devils games, this would mean the maximum crowd size would be 1,651 people.
Details have yet to be determined in terms of how tickets will be distributed between those who have season tickets, those who are Black & Red members but may not have full season tickets, and the general public. I would not hold my breath for sales to the public, but I would pay attention to secondary market sites like Stubhub or TiqIQ for the next few months. There are details determined for rules to follow in attending these games. The Prudential Center website already has a list of notable regulations for the fans already up, including these highlights:
Prudential Center will exclusively utilize mobile ticketing, with our arena staff scanning tickets without contact to avoid direct interaction.
Fans can order Devils gear and concessions items via their mobile device, with individually wrapped, single-serve menu options available for contactless pickup in sealed bags.
We’ve designated distanced seating areas to be occupied solely by members of the same household, and our Guest Services Members will ensure proper social distancing in restrooms, at concession pickups, and all areas throughout the arena.
Protecting yourself and others at Prudential Center begins outside the arena. Please wear your mask throughout your trip if traveling by public transit, and from the time you exit your car if driving, as well as during the entirety of the event inside the arena.
Our seating plan has been designed to keep fans safe and socially distanced. You can make our seating plan effective by remaining in your designated neighborhood with those you have come to the game with.
If you have to leave your neighborhood to pick up concessions or visit the restroom, please follow our signage and instructions throughout the arena to remain properly socially distant from other guests.
To limit crowding upon entry, fans will be assigned a specific time and entrance to use. Please follow your schedule and have your mobile tickets ready when you approach your entrance.
Bag checks can slow arena entry, so in order to keep fans distanced and moving, we will not be allowing bags into the arena. Lockers will be available for those who bring bags, if necessary.
I can appreciate that the Prudential Center staff has a lot of these rules in place to minimize any potential spread of the Coronavirus. I am a little surprised they are not requiring a negative test like they are doing at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Perhaps that will be added in the coming days. I can understand those who see some of these rules may deter people from wanting to attend. Some of them are inconvenient, but that is by design. I am going to hope the staff at the Prudential Center are prepared to enforce these to the fullest, even in the wake of the eventual complaining about some of these.
Your mileage may vary as to whether or not the Governor’s announcement today is a good idea. The pandemic in New Jersey is, well, a pandemic and that there are new strains of the Coronavirus in transmission could may mean this is short-lived. However, vaccinations have increased throughout the state and as those increase, it would be safer to allow games to happen with an audience. Hopefully we will get to a point by next season where vaccinations have been so wide-spread that most of these restrictions will go away. (The mobile ticketing probably will not, the Devils have been pushing that for a few seasons now.)
Would you be willing to go to a game if you could? That depends on you and your situation. I am a full season ticket holder and I would think I would be given the opportunity to go. However, given the few people I am in contact with, I could not forgive myself if I went to a game and came back from the Rock with the virus and passed it on to them. They are either quite old or quite young, such that being infected could be a massive problem. This is assuming it would not cause me massive problems. I have not been vaccinated yet, and so I would personally not be comfortable going to games until I have received my two (or one, depending on the vaccine) shots.
But that’s me and that’s me as of February 22. I may have a change of heart in a week or a month or a year. Maybe because I miss seeing the Devils hockey live and seeing other people in person also enjoying Devils hockey. Maybe because I miss being out. Maybe because I already bought season tickets and I might as well get something for my money. Maybe because after nearly a year of following all of these rules, some normalcy is appreciated and if I have to follow even more to do it, then so be it. But I highly doubt it between my social situation and the schedule. My contact with Devils hockey will still be through the TV and this blog.
You, however, are not me. You may be raring to go to attend games right this second. And I do not blame you one bit for feeling that way or wanting to do so. If you are able attend and follow the Prudential Center’s rules and are comfortable with the risks involved, then I say go and be as loud as possible. Cheer for every goal and scoring chance. Boo for every goal against and penalty kill failure. Woo so hard that it would even surprise Ric Flair. Flex like you gained Fourteen Pounds of Extra Muscle like Jack(ed) Hughes. Enjoy it as much as possible. Among the many things we can learn from the pandemic, we should appreciate the opportunities we have to be fans in person for the greatest sport in the world.
As fate would have it, you will not have to wait long to possibly attend games. The Prudential Center’s first games with fans will be throughout the first week of March based on the Devils’ current schedule. On March 2, they will face the Isles and they will play Our Hated Rivals on March 4 and 6. There is even a five-game homestand from March 13 to March 20. April has plenty of home games as well. You, the fan that may want to attend, will not need to wait long to do so.
I will end this with a simple poll, but please let us know in the comments how you feel about today’s announcement and whether you would be interested in going to a game given these rules and the current state of the pandemic. Thank you for reading.
NJ is allowing 10% attendance capacity for pro sports games in March. Would you go to a Devils game if you could?
This poll is closed
Yes and as soon as possible.
Yes, but only after I am vaccinated.
No, but I might if the pandemic situation improves.
No and not until next season at the earliest.