Kraken firm on not taking COVID lying down


Climate Pledge Arena to require proof of vaccination 2 Image: Climate Pledge Arena

The National Hockey League (NHL) team Seattle Kraken (US) will require fans aged 12 and above to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination in order to attend games this season.

The above announcement was made on September 7th and until the State issues further guidance, guests also will be required to wear a mask while attending events.

‘The News Tribune’ stated that the Seattle Kraken CEO Tod Leiweke said in a release, “On March 1st, 2018, we started this amazing journey together to build a new arena under a historical roof and bring the 32nd NHL franchise to Seattle. We are now poised to open Climate Pledge Arena and celebrate together, at capacity, in an environment that is safe for our fans, staff, players and artistes.”

All three Kraken home preseason games in the Washington Cities of Spokane (September 26th), Everett (October 1st) and Kent (October 2nd) will require proof of vaccination. Fans planning to attend training camp at the Kraken Community Iceplex and any following practices also will be required to show proof of vaccination.

The Seattle Kraken is a professional ice hockey team based in Seattle (US). The Kraken will compete in the National Hockey League (NHL) as a member of the Pacific Division in the Western Conference, beginning with the league’s 2021-2022 seasons. They will play their home games at the Climate Pledge Arena.

The 17,459-capacity Climate Pledge Arena is a multipurpose arena in Seattle, Washington (US). It is located North of downtown Seattle in the 74-acre entertainment complex known as Seattle Center, the site of the 1962 World’s Fair.

‘The News Tribune’ further stated that the Climate Pledge Arena features an advanced air circulation and filtration system and Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV-13) filters that exceed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. All air filtered into the arena will be brought in from the outside. The arena will have enhanced cleaning and sanitization procedures as well as contactless ticketing and food and beverage transactions.

Don Graham, Senior Vice-President at OVG and CPA COVID Taskforce Lead for Climate Pledge Arena, stated, “Throughout the construction process, we have followed guidance from the CDC, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) and other health authorities to identify effective solutions, not only for today but for years to come. We continue to review ventilation performance, ensuring maximum air changes that increase outside air to all guests.”

All full-time and part-time employees and contractors are required to be fully vaccinated.

Fans who aren’t fully vaccinated can still do so before the first event at Climate Pledge Arena. People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose in a two-dose series or two weeks after a single-dose vaccine.

The team and Climate Pledge Arena will introduce a process to allow guests to show proof of vaccination using their smartphones.

‘Taken aback’

If anybody is raising eyebrows over the Kraken’s decision to allow only fully vaccinated fans aged 12 and over into games at Climate Pledge Arena hasn’t been paying attention.

‘The Seattle Times’ stated that the Kraken had been mulling the above move for quite some time with the team’s top brass going all out for a full-on vaccination policy.

Don Graham, Senior Vice-President for the arena and the Oak View Group (OVG) company that’s spearheading its $1 billion-plus overhaul, remarked, “I just think all of our leadership got together, and we thought that this was the best thing for our fans. The last thing we wanted to do is revert back to (COVID-19) setbacks and limited capacity. We thought this was the ‘best practices’ approach we should be taking.”

Seattle-based Graham, who leads a COVID-19 arena task force locally and at OVG venues nationwide, said the team heard from fans on the vaccination issue. The new rules apply to NHL games, concerts and all other arena events, where all patrons for now also must wear a mask inside.

Added Graham, “It was more just our customers asking us. A lot of the correspondence and emails I saw is they would be more comfortable if we had a vaccine requirement of everybody.”

Until the San Jose Sharks announced a similar vaccination mandate last month, the only NHL teams taking the mask mandatory and vaccination step had been Canadian franchises in Winnipeg, Calgary, Vancouver, and Toronto.

Kraken has said that it has made the jab-mask announcement now itself to give fans time to get fully vaccinated by the October 23rd home opener against the Vancouver Canucks. Vaccines also will be required to attend the team’s training camp at the Community Iceplex at Northgate Mall, as well as three home preseason games in Spokane, Kent and Everett.

The Vancouver Canucks are a professional ice hockey team based in Vancouver, Canada. They compete in the National Hockey League (NHL) as a member of the Pacific Division of the Western Conference. The Canucks play their home games at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, which has a seating capacity of over 18,000.

Graham did say the team will allow some unvaccinated fans into games with a negative COVID-19 test taken within 48 hours beforehand, but only if approved in advance for exemptions on legitimate medical or religious grounds.

It is being suggested that the Kraken should bar any fan from the Climate Pledge Arena that it considers a threat to public safety.

‘The Seattle Times’ further stated that this goes beyond the ‘No shirt, no shoes, no service’ policy restaurants have used for decades. With COVID-19 cases, deaths and hospitalizations involving multiple variants on the rise in the United States – primarily among the unvaccinated – the Kraken is leaving nothing to chance.

The NHL has seen two seasons disrupted by COVID-19. The Kraken and its intertwined OVG arena developer -with $650 million invested in the franchise, another $1 billion in Climate Pledge and $80 million in the Community Iceplex – will want to play to packed house to laugh all the way to the bank.

They can’t, as Graham noted, afford COVID setbacks that limit crowd sizes, or – as happened locally last year – prevent fans from entering venues.

Most religions do not hold specific objections to vaccines.

And valid medical exemptions for COVID-19 vaccines typically involve “contraindications” – reasons not to administer a product – as defined by the Food and Drug Administration with guidance from medical groups. For the Pfizer vaccine, the only contraindications listed by the FDA are anyone with a history of severe allergic reaction to a specific ingredient within the vaccine.

Graham said anyone wanting an exemption can soon file an “appeal” through an online portal still being set up. The number of approved appeals isn’t expected to be high.

Informed Graham, “We’re still working on what the exemptions are and will closely follow Government-issued recommendations on the subject. That’s the challenge we all face and right now, the discussions are still ongoing.”

But between the additional masking requirements and the arena’s top-end ventilation system, he doesn’t feel allowing a tiny number of exempted fans in among the vaccinated would put anyone at undue risk.

That same online platform for appeals will also allow fans to upload proof of vaccination ahead of games. Then, once at the arena, they’ll gain quick entry through a smartphone application recognizing their preapproved status.

Graham is also not losing sleep over arena employees facing backlash from fans denied access for lacking vaccination proof, saying such workers commonly deal with counterfeit tickets and other issues that cause entry hassles. The team is discussing additional protocols, such as a security perimeter, to weed out such fans before they get too close to arena doors.

Not everyone will like the new rules, naturally. But the United States is firm on wanting to reopen for business and sports during a pandemic showing few signs of going away.

The message is loud and clear – one cannot attend Kraken games unless fully vaccinated against a coronavirus reported to have killed more than 650,000 people in the United States.

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