Over a year after the NBA shuttered practice facilities and arenas and closed its doors due to the coronavirus pandemic, the league is warming up to the idea of welcoming fans back in full capacity next season.
As the vaccine rollout continues, ESPN’s Baxter Holmes reports that the NBA is optimistic that arenas will be full again for the 2021-22 season.
“With COVID-19 testing becoming more available and more vaccines being administered, the NBA expects all arenas to be at full capacity next season and is hopeful that it can safely welcome additional fans into arenas this season, league sources said."
Holmes notes that a key part of this effort is the league’s partnership with Clear, the biometric screening company you’ve seen in airports across the country. With this partnership, the NBA will be able to utilize Clear’s COVID-19 health screening technology to enable fans to return to games safely.
Teams like the Orlando Magic and San Antonio Spurs are already using Clear’s Health Pass program, which includes a “combination of health surveys and secure linking to COVID-19 lab results and vaccination records, for their employee or fan safety protocols in-arena,” per Holmes.
The Trail Blazers are one of eight NBA teams currently not allowing fans at home games this season. The Blazers began letting some employees and fans into the building for games in early April to begin testing procedures for if/when fans can return to the Moda Center.
In mid-March, the Oregon Health Authority released a set of guidelines for outdoor recreation and entertainment events. Under those guidelines in Multnomah County, stadiums can occupy up to 25 percent capacity. The Portland Thorns will welcome back fans in a limited capacity on April 9 against KC NWSL. The Portland Timbers will also host fans on April 13 when the team hosts C.D. Marathón in a Round of 16 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League match.
This will be the first time fans will be able to attend professional sporting events in Portland since the COVID-19 pandemic led to a nationwide shutdown.