By Breezh Nunez, March 30, 2021
While Southern California NBA fans are still unable to see their favorite teams in person due to COVID-19 restrictions in the state, nearby teams in other states like the Phoenix Suns have begun allowing fans back in stadiums, giving fans the ability to experience in-person games after an almost year-long wait.
The Suns opened its newly renovated arena to the public in February with limited capacity since first closing back in March 2020.
Ezekiel Engle, who resides in Phoenix, has been a Suns fan for a couple years now and was astonished to see a completely modernized version of the arena while attending the recent Suns-Lakers game. He appreciated the arena’s ability to keep him feeling safe while watching his favorite teams in person again.
“It’s different, it’s not as crowded, which is cool because you don’t have to worry about anyone spilling beer on you, but at the same time you don’t get to feed off the energy of the crowd since it’s so empty now; so it has its pros and cons,” said Engle. “Usually, you’re next to a group of people that you can cheer and enjoy the game with, and that’s not going to happen right now, now it’s just your group, but it’s still a really good experience.”
The arena, which usually seats up to 18,422 visitors, recently updated its allowed capacity from 1,500 to 3,000 fans, all while enforcing many COVID-19 safety regulations. Before entering, all fans, employees and vendors are required to fill out the fan promise, a form consisting of screening questionnaire about COVID-19. Furthermore, staff members all take part in enforcing the use of face masks and social distancing by only allowing a few groups per row and encouraging sanitation use by providing sanitizer pods throughout the arena.
The late March game between the Suns and Lakers was the second game Engle has seen in the arena since its reopening, and he plans to attend many more. However, with the new regulations the arena has forced on its visitors, it differs from the experience fans are used to having while attending a basketball game.
“They make sure to ask you screening questions and take your temperature before entering now,” Engle said. “I mean there isn’t much more you can do than that; I think it’s just enough.”
Like Engle, many other fans feel the same way. Those who visit notice many changes resulting from the pandemic, however, acknowledge that it is a step toward normalcy again since indoor activities are now permitted.
With the Lakers recently playing in the Suns arena, Los Angeles fans were thrilled to finally see their home team play again. Dominic Alverez, a fan from LA, hopes to see more things open again back home, but was delighted to go out and enjoy a night away from home to watch his favorite team on the court.
“It definitely isn’t the same as the rowdiness I’m used to back in LA, but it’s amazing to have a chance to see my team play again … It’s a change from the lockdown we’ve been on and it’s nice to see people out, almost feels like things are going back to normal,” Alverez said. “It’s pretty empty but I came to watch the game with my friends anyways, so I’m not complaining.”
Similar to Alverez, Krystal Morales, a third-year marketing student at UCLA, was ecstatic to finally see her favorite team, the Lakers, play on the court again for the first time in two years. Morales seized the opportunity to see her home team live again when her sister surprised her with tickets.
“I wasn’t expecting anything to be reopened any time soon, so being here to watch the Lakers play is crazy cool…it’s a good getaway from how things are back at home. Hopefully, we can see more things open up again soon,” said Morales.
For more information on how you can watch games of this season live, visit https://www.phoenixsunsarena.com
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