By Mark Lizano; April 27, 2021
After an almost 13-month wait, Staples Center reopened to Los Angeles sports fans on April 15 with health and safety measures in place.
The Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Kings can now hear the cheers and chants from their fans, providing that extra motivating factor when athletes are playing through injuries or an off night.
Leilia Orji, senior center for CPP women’s basketball, emphasized the importance of playing in front of fans.
“I definitely feed off of crowd energy, I like playing in front of big crowds, I know that during some games it can be that make or break on whether I turn things around or not,” said Orji. “Having the crowd there for me is the big difference between feeling like it’s a scrimmage and feeling like I’m actually playing a game.”
Staples Center can normally hold up to 20,000 fans, but with new COVID-19 restrictions in place, the arena will only allow around 2,000 fans inside the building. Tickets must be purchased digitally in advance to reduce the amount of contact between fans and ticket vendors. Fans must be fully vaccinated for over two weeks or display a negative COVID-19 test within the past 72 hours and show corresponding identification.
Rebecca Islas, senior forward for the women’s basketball team, expressed how difficult the new restrictions might be to monitor in such a large indoor arena.
“The amount of staff that they will have to hire, they will have to constantly be cleaning. I think it is a lot of stress on everyone,” said Islas
Fans are not allowed to bring bags of any sort inside the arena. They will have to order their food or drinks through a QR code on their device. When their order is ready, they will receive a notification on their phone. From there, they will have to go to a designated spot inside the arena or outside the arena where they are allowed to eat their food or consume their beverage.
Before COVID-19 rules like this did not exist at Staples Center, but due to current circumstances the in-person experience has changed dramatically. Stricter regulations have been put in place as a result of basketball being played indoors, opposed to baseball and football which are played outdoors.
Danelle Bishop, women’s basketball head coach, already has experience with dealing with COVID-19 protocols in a basketball setting. She worked the division two women’s tournament as a site representative.
“When I was at the NCAA tournament, they had hired a company, they’ll probably be working NBA and WNBA events,” said Bishop “They had to make sure players and administrators tested every day, then they were on crowd control; it’s going to take a lot of resources for sure.”
With the postseason for the NHL and NBA less than a month away, the timing is perfect for fans of the respective teams. The Lakers play their next home game on April 30, the Clippers on May 1, and the Kings on April 28.
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