Like many places around the nation, Utah — and specifically Salt Lake County, where Salt Lake City sits — has seen a rapid rise in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks. The state averaged 3,345 positive test results per day the past week — a record high, according to the Salt Lake Tribune — yet that did not stop Utah Gov. Gary Herbert from dropping all restrictions on social gatherings in time for Thanksgiving.
With that backdrop, the Utah Jazz announced they will allow a limited number of fans, 1,500 per game, in the lower bowl of Vivint Arena for Jazz home games. There also will be limited seating on the suite level.
“The Jazz believe this is a responsible way to start the season from a public health and safety standpoint. Our intent is to increase the number of fans as the season unfolds in compliance with state guidelines,” Jazz President Jim Olson said in a statement. “We want to reassure our guests that we are taking the utmost precautions to have a safe and enjoyable experience as they return. We are optimistic for the future and continue to closely monitor the public health situation with the State of Utah, Salt Lake County, and Salt Lake City officials as well as the NBA.”
The NBA has talked about having suite-level seating at many games, those are both the most expensive seats in most arenas and well distanced from the players.
However, it is one of the major challenges for the league this season that some cities and jurisdictions will allow fans back in arenas long before other ones. The Los Angeles Lakers have already said they will not have fans at games to start the season.
At no arena, including Vivint, will allow fans in traditional courtside seats to start the season, fans will be farther back in the lower bowl. At Vivint Arena, those fans will be seated in “seating pods” of groups that come together, and there will be required physical distancing between groups in the bowl.
Fans in Vivint Arena will have to wear masks, there will be plexiglass barriers at food/drink vendor sales, there will be limits on the number of people in the bathrooms and other spots people gather, and there will be social distancing signage, the Jazz announced. There will also be extensive sanitization protocols in the building. Finally, the Vivint Arena HVAC system “has been upgraded for a higher quality of filtered air to meet NBA standards during the pandemic.”
Even with all that, some fans likely will not be comfortable attending games in person yet. However, for those season ticket holders that are, the Jazz are setting up a system to get at least some of them in the arena.