BOSTON (WPRI) — It’s a day sports fans all over New England have been waiting for.
Fans will be able to cheer on their favorite professional teams in person for the first time since the pandemic hit in Massachusetts, but with restrictions in place.
The Boston Bruins are the first to welcome back fans Thursday when they host the New York Islanders at TD Garden.
The Garden can normally fit nearly 18,000 fans for a hockey game, but just 2,200 will be able to watch the Bruins play. Despite the smaller capacity, it’s a moment fans and management at the Garden have been thinking about for a long time.
A lot of work goes into opening a venue like the Garden during a pandemic, but TD Garden President Amy Latimer says they have been focusing on this day since last March.
Even though watching the game may feel a little different, Latimer says there’s still plenty for fans to enjoy.
“Of course it’s going to be fun! Because you are going to be able to be live and see the Bruins and the Celtics games, which, they’ve been on their couches, they’ve been at home, I think they are going to be excited. I think the players are going to feed off that energy, I think the fans know that” she said.
Among the changes, fans will use their phones for everything including parking, tickets, and concessions. Workers will also be sanitizing the Garden before and after events.
Fans will be seated in socially distanced “pods” of two or four people, in specifically assigned areas called “neighborhoods” where they will be able to get anything they need.
Unless fans are eating or drinking, masks must be worn, which Latimer doesn’t think will be a problem.
“They want to be there, they are coming and they have made the effort to come to the game, they are going to keep their mask on,” she said. “We’re just ready to get started. We’re just ready to get the first game under our belt.”
As for the rest of Boston sports, the Celtics play March 29, and the Red Sox home opener is April 1.
The opening face off for the Bruins is set for 7 p.m.