January 12, 2021
Professional sporting events without fans have become the new norm in the era of COVID-19, but for fans of the NHL's Arizona Coyotes, the upcoming season will offer them an opportunity to attend home games.
Starting Thursday, Gila River Arena will limit capacity to 25 percent, affording about 3,400 lucky fans the chance to watch the puck drop in person, according to Xavier Gutierrez, Arizona Coyotes president and CEO.
"First and foremost, we worked with the city of Glendale, Arizona, who gave us permission, and then we also worked at the recommendation of ASM Global, which is the manager of our facility, and they manage about 350 facilities around the world," he said.
The news comes as the U.S. continues to endure a record-breaking number of COVID-19 related deaths and diagnoses. According to the CDC, Arizona tops the list when it comes to the average number of confirmed daily cases. The state reported more than 8,500 new cases and more than 330 deaths on Tuesday.
While players, trainers, and staff will adhere to strict COVID-19 testing guidelines, fans are not required to provide proof of a negative test result. Last week, the NFL's Buffalo Bills introduced a protocol that provided fans on-site testing before allowing access to the team's first playoff game in over two decades.
Just last month, the Arizona Cardinals, who play across the street from the Coyotes in Glendale, announced that fans would not be permitted to attend the team's final two home games as cases surged around the state.
Still, Gutierrez said the Coyotes organization has taken steps to ensure that health and safety for anyone attending a game is a priority.
"It started with [ASM Global's] protocol, something called VenueShield, which is a series of sanitation and cleanliness, as well as ingress-egress, fan circulation," he said.
"The CLEAR app will be a way for fans to show up and fill out their health surveys and also help us with contact tracing," Gutierrez added, regarding the team's partnership with the health verification mobile app.
Other steps taken to mitigate the potential spread of coronavirus include implementing a "purely contactless and mobile environment," periodic testing for arena employees, and a partnership with Salesforce that will also aid in contact tracing.
"As I've said a number of times, we certainly can't eliminate the risk. We obviously are very mindful of the risk that's around us not only in this community but throughout the country and throughout the world, but we feel very confident that we're attempting to manage it and mitigate it and we feel very good about the comprehensive nature of our protocols," Gutierrez said.