Fans to energize Massachusetts stadia


Fans back at Boston venues Image: TD Garden & Delaware North

Die-hard fans in the United States who had to satisfy themselves by watching their favorite sporting heroes in action from their living room couches glued to their television sets can now ditch the couch and straightaway head to the stadium and roar their hearts out for their idols.

Come March 22nd, supporters will be allowed to enter TD Garden, Fenway Park and Gillette Stadium and cheer for their favorite teams in person for the first time in a year.

As long as COVID-19 cases continue to fall and vaccinations continue to rise Statewide, venues can open at 12 percent of capacity, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker announced recently.

TD Garden

First to open its doors will be TD Garden, where the National Hockey League (NHL) team Boston Bruins will host the New York Islanders on March 23rd, followed by the National Basketball Association (NBA) team Boston Celtics taking on the New Orleans Pelicans six days later.

The 19,580-capacity TD Garden, sometimes called The Garden, is a multipurpose arena in Boston, Massachusetts. It is named after its sponsor, TD Bank, a subsidiary of Canada’s Toronto-Dominion Bank. The venue opened in 1995. It is the home ground of the Boston Bruins and Boston Celtics.

Since shuttering last March, TD Garden has revamped its ventilation and air filtration system, along with many other changes in keeping with local, State, NBA and NHL health and safety recommendations, and has introduced a ‘Play It Safe’ program meant to ensure fan safety.

A statement on the TD Garden website stated that TD Garden has been permitted to host fans at 12 percent capacity beginning on March 22nd, 2021. The first Boston Bruins game with fans will be hosted on March 23rd, and the first Boston Celtics game with fans will be hosted on March 29th. Ticketing information for upcoming games will be released by the Boston Bruins and Boston Celtics in the coming days.

The statement further read, “To help protect the health and safety of TD Garden guests, associates and players, TD Garden is introducing the ‘Play It Safe’ commitment to care, a comprehensive program designed to reduce the spread of infectious diseases such as COVID-19.”

The statement added, “Using the ‘Play It Safe’ protocols and evaluating every step of the guest journey, TD Garden leveraged technology to create touch-free event experiences and re-engineered operational and sanitation procedures to minimize contact risk and bolster hygiene to exceed best-practice guidelines from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Additionally, the ‘Play It Safe’ protocols have been developed in consultation with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, local public safety and public health officials, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League. The safety of guests, associates and players remains the top priority.”

Remarked Amy Latimer, President TD Garden, “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.”

Stated Cam Neely, President, Boston Bruins, “An incredible amount of work and collaboration has taken place over the past year in preparation for the return of fans to TD Garden. The processes and protocols that have been put in place are structured to ensure the safety, well-being and enjoyment of our fans. We are beyond excited to welcome back the best fans in hockey to TD Garden as their energy and enthusiasm have been greatly missed.”

Stated Rich Gotham, President, Boston Celtics, “We’re grateful for the hard work of our colleagues at TD Garden, the Bruins and the NBA, and for the guidance we’ve received from the Governor’s office and City officials. We have great confidence that everyone’s diligence will provide a safe, welcoming and enjoyable experience.”

Fenway Park

The Fenway Park in Boston will also welcome fans back to its fold on April 1st, 2021.

The 37,731-capacity Fenway Park is a baseball park located in Boston, Massachusetts, near Kenmore Square. Since 1912, it has been the home for the Major League Baseball (MLB) team Boston Red Sox, the City’s American League baseball team, and since 1953, its only Major League Baseball franchise. While the stadium was built in 1912, it was rebuilt in 1934.

A statement on the MLB website stated that when the Red Sox open their season against the Baltimore Orioles on April 1st, there will be fans in the stands at Fenway Park.

The statement on the MLB website further read, “In conjunction with Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker’s announcement recently that the State is entering Phase 4 of its reopening plan on March 22nd, the Red Sox announced the return of spectators in a limited capacity for the start of the season.”

Observed Red Sox Manager Alex Cora, “Obviously, where we’re at with the virus, to have fans is great. From our end, that means that our families can actually be a part of it, too, and that means a lot for them to go to Fenway and watch us perform, which is cool.”

At the outset, as per the State mandates, Fenway Park can operate at 12 percent of its normal seating capacity, which means approximately 4,000 fans can go to games when the season starts.

Added Cora, “Things are trending in the right direction, right? That’s another step. Then hopefully whenever we can, we’re going to have a packed house, and that’s going to be really, really special. But I think whatever, 2,000 here [at Spring Training], 4,000 in Fenway are going to feel great, it’s going to feel special. It will be cool to at least have X amount of fans and also our families.”

The Red Sox will now initiate the process of putting operational plans into action for the return of fans to Fenway Park. As part of a socially-distanced fan experience at Fenway, the club will implement appropriate health and safety protocols.

Season-ticket holders will be offered the first opportunity to attend regular-season games at Fenway. More details about the plan, including ticket sales information, will be communicated in the coming weeks.

Stated Red Sox President-cum-CEO Sam Kennedy, “Today’s announcement by Governor Baker and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito outlining the Commonwealth’s timetable for entering Phase 4 in late March is a major step forward and a testament to the leadership of the State and our many healthcare partners working together. We thank the Governor, Lt. Governor, Secretary Marylou Sudders, Secretary Mike Kennealy and all of the public officials whose hard work has helped get us to this important stage. We are eager to welcome our fans back to Fenway Park this season.”

The Red Sox plan to continue using Fenway as a mass vaccination site even after the season starts. The club is working closely with the State and vaccination site partners at CIC Health to develop revised operating plans as necessary for the month of April and beyond that so that it is well-coordinated with the team’s game schedule.

Gillette Stadium

Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts (US) will also greet fans back to its fold.

The 65,878-capacity Gillette Stadium is a stadium in the northeastern United States, located in Foxborough, Massachusetts. It opened 19 years ago in 2002, replacing the adjacent Foxboro Stadium. The stadium serves as the home stadium and administrative offices for both the New England Patriots of the National Football League (NFL) and the New England Revolution of Major League Soccer (MLS).

A statement on the Gillette Stadium website read, “On February 25th, 2021, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker announced that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will transition to Phase IV beginning March 22nd. Under Phase IV guidelines, large capacity venues in Massachusetts may permit guests at 12 percent capacity.”

The statement further read, “Gillette Stadium looks forward to welcoming fans back for the 2021 Major League Soccer Season, which kicks off on April 17th. Under the guidance of the CDC, State of MA, as well as the NFL and MLS, we have implemented a series of health and sanitization policies and procedures to keep you safe and comfortable while visiting.”

In a statement, Gillette Stadium officials said they were “thrilled” by the news – “This step represents the progress vaccinations are providing to minimize the risk of infection through herd immunity. It is an important step toward a return to normalcy for fans of the New England Revolution and New England Patriots and provides a sense of optimism for a much brighter future ahead.”

‘Boston Globe’ reported that while there will be nothing normal about seeing nearly nine out of every 10 seats empty and everyone but the players wearing masks, the return of the fans’ roar, no matter how loud or soft, will be welcome not just for fans, but for teams missing out on gameday revenue.

In her remarks at an announcement of the State’s accelerated reopening plan, Polito called the news “a definite step forward” and said that “Opening Day is in our near future”.

‘Boston Globe’ further informed that Baker’s announcement also includes guidance on reopening theaters, concert venues and musical performances in restaurants, with restrictions on many businesses lifted. The stadium and reopening developments will mark Step 1 of Phase 4.

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