PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) -- This is the announcement sports fans have been hoping for: The city of Philadelphia has announced a loosening of capacity restrictions at large indoor and outdoor venues. Thus, a limited amount of fans are able to attend games at Wells Fargo Center.
Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said Tuesday the teams can start welcoming back fans, effective immediately.
Just a day after the state raised the number of people permitted to attend indoor and outdoor events, the city of Philadelphia has followed suit.
Officials say that they will relax capacity restrictions for indoor venues to 15% of capacity, with no cap, and 20% for outdoor venues.
There will be fans at the next Flyers home game on Sunday, March 7. The Sixers play Wednesday night at home, but the first home game with fans will be March 14.
Wells Fargo Center says around 3,100 of them are allowed, and that’ll be the number for Flyers and Sixers games for the time being, until the limit is raised again.
Arena General Manager Phil Laws says season ticket holders will likely have priority at first.
"They’ve stuck with us through this. They’ve built up tenure over many, many years. We aren’t going to sell the entire season right away. We’re going to work this in a certain number of games to begin. Maybe it’s the first month, maybe it’s the first eight games, so it won’t be the entire season going out."
There’s a wait list for non-season ticket holders.
Laws says there will also be hundreds of workers returning to the arena for the first time in almost a full year. Law said this might even open up jobs for new people as well.
"Food and beverage folks, ushers, ticket takers, all those things are predicated on having fans in the building. So we’ll have approximately 400 more workers per game."
Fans and workers will have to wear masks, and fans will be spread out throughout the arena. Also, there will be cashless transactions for ticketing and concessions in the building and contactless parking outside.
Wells Fargo Center was awarded the WELL health safety rating last month, so they’ve been working at this for a while.
And when the Phillies play their home opener in April, there will be about 8,000 fans in the stands.
It's another step toward normalcy in the coronavirus pandemic. Philadelphia's COVID-19 case numbers and fatalities have been going down, and vaccines are accelerating. About 200,000 Philadelphians have received their first dose, and 100,000 have received both doses. The city expects to set a record of 50,000 vaccinations just this week. Later in the week, the city will get 13,000 doses of the new single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Farley says it's all helping, but "we have not vaccinated enough people yet for the entire community to be protected against this epidemic." He warned, in some places in the region, the numbers have been going up.
In fact, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky warned on Monday that the drop in nationwide COVID-19 cases and deaths seems to be stalling. Speaking at a White House COVID-19 response team media briefing, she cautioned states against easing restrictions.
“Please hear me clearly,” she emphasized. “At this level of cases, with variant spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground that we have gained.”
Farley urged similar caution on Tuesday. Even though he's comfortable with the new relaxed standards, he urged people to continue following the precautions of wearing a mask every time they leave the house and keeping 6 feet of space between each other.
One thing that won't change is the ban on indoor catered events. Farley says, those are still the most dangerous kinds of gatherings.