Gov. Charlie Baker announced on Feb. 25 that Massachusetts is expected to move into Phase 4 of its COVID-19 reopening plan on March 22. One of the most exciting announcements that comes with Phase 4 is that arenas, stadiums and ballparks will be allowed to operate at 12% capacity. This means that, in the near future, both TD Garden and Fenway Park may see fans in the stands for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. For TD Garden, this is equal to approximately 2,300 fans, and for Fenway Park, approximately 4,000 fans. TD Garden announced it will utilize “pod seating,” which means groups of 2–4 fans will be distanced at least 6 feet apart from other groups.
“These large venues employ a lot of people and many of them have been out of work for a very long time,” Baker said in a press conference. “We’ve been watching how these venues perform in other states, and believe with the right safety measures in place they can operate responsibly and safely here in the Commonwealth as well.”
The Bruins would be the first major professional sports team in Boston to be able to host fans, as they have a home game scheduled against the New York Islanders on March 23. The Celtics’ first home game with fans could take place March 29 against the New Orleans Pelicans, if the state moves into Phase 4 as expected. The Red Sox opening day is scheduled for April 1 against the Baltimore Orioles.
In terms of the health measures these venues have taken, TD Garden has an air filtration system and has introduced a “Play it Safe” program to ensure fan safety. Some of these measures include new entry gates, mobile concession ordering and a no bag policy. The Red Sox are expected to announce a health and safety plan in the coming weeks. Ticketing information for Bruins, Celtics and Red Sox games will be announced in the coming weeks as well.
Michael Jordan, university infection control health director, commented on the state’s plan to move to the first step of Phase 4 and how it will impact students at Tufts.
“Given the rapidity with which COVID prevalence and incidence change in the community, March 22 is a long way away and many things may happen,” Jordan wrote in an email to the Daily. “Our essential only travel policy remains unchanged at this point in time.”
Jordan noted that if the state does in fact enter Phase 4 later this month, students will be advised not to attend professional sports games in person.
“While the game may be at 12% capacity and physically distanced, there are many opportunities for physical distancing to break down: car rides, the jaunt to the pre- or post-game drink or snack, etc. in a city where the test positivity is 25-fold higher than our campus bubble, it is ill advised.”