PHOENIX — For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the Phoenix Suns allowed a limited number of fans into the team’s downtown Phoenix arena for Sunday’s game against the Boston Celtics.
The team offered two or four-packs of tickets for free to healthcare workers and their friends or loved ones as a way to honor them.
Beginning Monday, the general public will be allowed back inside the arena as well.
“I haven’t missed a home game in four years, so this has just been killing me not to be able to go,” Veronica Philpot, a pharmacy technician, told ABC15. “This is my happy place,” she said, “This is where I go to release from all the drama of the world.”
The move comes as coronavirus hospitalizations and deaths are trending down following the holiday surge. Still, on Sunday, the Arizona Department of Health Services reported 1,544 new cases.
“I recognize that some people are going to have a different level of comfort and a different level of their opinion in terms of whether or not what we’re doing is safe,” Suns President Jason Rowley told ABC15 after the decision to allow fans in-person was announced. “We feel like we are — frankly — safer than a lot of places you can go that are open to the public right now.”
Rowley said as part of the arena’s $230 million renovations, a new air filtration system was installed. Attendance is limited to 1,500 fans — around 10% of the arena’s capacity — and suites will be capped at 25% or less.
The team has also shifted to mobile tickets, cashless payments, and opened new “grab and go” food and drink stations. Masks are required except when actively eating or drinking and seats, entry, exit and waiting areas are spaced out to allow for social distancing.
“We feel like once we get a couple of games under our belts and people realize and are able to see for themselves how we are operating and how we’re conducting ourselves, that people will have a higher level of comfort,” Rowley said.
For information on the team’s effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 and what fans need to know while attending games, click here.