Fans set to return to sports game in Phoenix, albeit with COVID-related restrictions in place

Sports fans across the Valley will soon be able to attend games in-person, as both the Phoenix Suns and the Arizona Diamondbacks announce they will allow fans back in their stadiums.

Phoenix Suns

According to a statement released on Feb. 2, officials with the NBA team say they are offering complimentary tickets to healthcare workers and their families to watch the team go against the Boston Celtics on Feb. 7.

"As the true MVPs of our community, we want to honor and thank our healthcare heroes for all they have done during these challenging times," said Phoenix Suns President & CEO Jason Rowley, in the statement.

Phoenix Suns officials say people can visit their website and follow the instructions to receive a one-time code to claim tickets via Ticketmaster. the seats are being offered as two-person or four-person, socially-distanced seating pods.

In addition, team officials say ticket presales for season ticket Members will begin on Feb. 4, for scheduled games beginning Feb. 8 and through the first half of the season that is scheduled to end on Mar. 4, while single-game tickets for non-members will go on sale on Feb. 5.

Attendance, according to officials, is capped at 1,500 people per game, which is less than 10% of total capacity.

"We hit our capacity for that literally in a matter of hours," said Phoenix Suns President Jason Rowley. "That level of response is really indicative of how much pent-up desire and demand there is from the community to be able to come out and enjoy the things they’ve traditionally been able to enjoy."

Spring Training

Salt River Fields will have its opening day on Saturday, Feb. 27, but there will be a lot of empty seats at the venue due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

"It’ll be sort of like a checkerboard, the seating manifest," said Dave Dunn, General Manager of Salt River Fields. "Out in the outfield lawn, there will be pods you can buy. There will be painted circles out there."

Dunne says only about 2,500 fans will be allowed during each game, and the stadium has a capacity of 11,000 during the pre-COVID days.

In addition, only small bags or purses will be allowed, and certain baseball food staples are temporarily banned.

"We're not going to be selling sunflower seeds. We’re not going to be selling peanuts or popcorn because of fans spitting them out," said Dunne. "There’s just some things Major League Baseball already tested out and asked us not to do this year."

Game attendees will also be required to wear masks.

Tickets were set to go on sale on Feb. 5, but on that day, officials with Salt River Fields say the Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies are postponing ticket sales temporarily due to "further review regarding spring training details."

"We will alert fans with information about a new on sale day when it is available," read a portion of the tweet.

Frustration over hosting of sporting event grows

The proposal to allow fans into the Phoenix Suns Arena, albeit with restrictions, was approved by the City of Phoenix on Feb. 2, and while the Suns are getting ready, frustrations are growing for the Arizona Soccer Association, which is set to host the Youth National Championship in July.

"We’re sitting here, five months pre-event, and we don’t have clarity and direction, or if whether or not the field will be made available, and so, we’re working with U.S. youth groups for more options," said Rick Kelsey.

Kelsey says all they need is approval from the Phoenix City Council.

"The challenge is we're all waiting for the council to make the decision, and we have not been provided clarity during the council meeting in December," said Kelsey. "Their last comment was we will open the fields again when we return to Sept. 6 volumes and results close to that."

Across Arizona, there are 45,000 youth soccer players. A tournament was hosted in November 2020, and the association is possibly looking for other opportunities for the national event to happen.

Phoenix city leaders express concerns

Some city leaders in Phoenix are voicing concerns about bringing back fans at this time.

"I don’t think any of those events are safe," said Phoenix City Councilmember Carlos Garcia. "Often we think about the fans, but there’s also employees. We’re putting workers, fans, and everyone else at risk."

Special tickets for healthcare workers

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