Sports event

Ontario Expands Sporting Event Capacity Ahead of Long-Term Baseball Campaign and NHL Preseason

Teoscar Hernandez of the Toronto Blue Jays hit a three-run homerun against the Minnesota Twins at Rogers Center in Toronto on September 18.Mark Blinch / Getty Images

Ontario is opening the door wider to fans at sporting events, just in time for the NHL preseason and baseball’s long-running campaign.

Participation in Maple Leafs and Raptors games at Scotiabank Arena will be capped at 50% of capacity or 10,000, whichever is less, effective Saturday.

The Blue Jays, meanwhile, will be able to increase the capacity of the Rogers Center to 30,000 for the last home pit of the regular season, starting September 28, in their bid to advance to the playoffs. Level 500 will be reopened.

Toronto FC have announced their game capacity at BMO Field will increase from 15,000 to 21,000, while the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats are increasing Tim Hortons Field capacity to 75%, or 18,000 spectators.

The Ontario Hockey League said the 17 Ontario-based league teams will increase to 50 percent of capacity, starting with Saturday’s preseason games.

Noting that nearly 80% of eligible Ontarians are fully immunized, Ontario Chief Medical Officer Kieran Moore said, “We are able to recommend cautious relaxation of capacity limits in some settings.

For indoor sports facilities, this means a capacity of 50% or 10,000 people, whichever is less. Capacity will increase to 75 percent or 30,000 people, whichever is less, for outdoor seated events.

“Raising capacity limits doesn’t mean we can let our guard down,” Dr. Moore said. “We must remain cautious and humble in the face of this Delta variant. While many of our key indicators are stable and our immunization rates are among the highest in the world, we must all remain vigilant and continue to follow public health measures and advice. “

Friday’s announcement comes on the eve of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ opening game against the visiting Montreal Canadiens. When the Leafs and Canadiens last met – a Game 7 first-round playoff loss to Toronto on May 31 – there were just 550 fully vaccinated healthcare workers in the stands.

“MLSE [Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment] remains fully supportive of the province’s process to enable a safe return to all activities for all businesses, including games, concerts and other public events, with the mandatory vaccination policy and this gradual return-to-health approach full capacity of the sites, ”said the president and CEO of MLSE. Michael Friisdahl said in a statement.

“Based on today’s direction, we have adjusted our operating plan to accommodate 50% of venues capacity as of Saturday’s first Maple Leafs preseason game, and we will continue to work closely. working with the province to provide the safest environment at our venues to allow for a return to full capacity for the start of the regular seasons of the Maple Leafs and Raptors. “

The last time the Scotiabank Arena was filled to capacity was March 10, 2020, when 19,124 saw the Leafs beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1. The pandemic prompted the leagues to shut down shortly thereafter.

As previously announced, MLSE requires all spectators and employees to provide full proof of vaccination as well as government-issued identification for its indoor and outdoor events, which include Scotiabank Arena, BMO Field and Coca-Cola. Cola Coliseum. Proof of a negative COVID-19 test will not be accepted for admission except for guests with a verified medical exemption.

Children 11 and under are exempt from these requirements.

The Jays also require full proof of vaccination for all fans aged 12 and over. A negative COVID-19 test will no longer be accepted, except for people with a doctor’s note stating that they cannot receive the vaccine due to medical exemptions.

The Ottawa Senators, also affected by Friday’s announcement, say they hope they can accommodate a large crowd for its opener.

The Winnipeg Jets say they will have full capacity crowds at the Canada Life Center this season. The Vancouver Canucks are currently limited to 50% of their capacity by provincial health ordinances in British Columbia, but the team said they hope the restrictions will be relaxed by opening night and plans for a full house early. of the regular season.

The Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers are currently allowed to fill their arenas, even though Alberta is under a public health emergency due to a wave of COVID-19. The Montreal Canadiens are entitled to 33% capacity at the 21,302-seat Bell Center.

Nick Eaves, director of sites and operations for MLSE, said MLSE will use the entire Scotiabank Arena, which should allow some physical distance.

“There will be pods. These pods will be distributed throughout the arena. Certainly the expectation, where we can, is to do all we can to keep that distance, ”he said in an interview.

The Leafs’ first two preseason games were not part of the season pass package. Things will get more complicated when games involving season ticket holders begin with Game 3 of Preseason and the Regular Season.

“We are going to work with public health [authorities], “Sir. Said Eaves.” Our hope is that we can obviously demonstrate to them that everything we do is done safely and we hope that we can increase that number of abilities. But for the first two games, it is not. a member [season ticket-holder] problem.

“At the end of the day, if we have events where the number of members exceeds capacity, then obviously we will have a plan to just manage that inventory with our members.”

All Scotiabank Arena participants will also be required to wear a face cover, including when seated in the stands, unless eating or drinking. Gaiters will not be permitted.

Mr Eaves said staff will remind fans of the masking requirement, noting that spectators will also have to take personal responsibility for following the rules.

Stricter restrictions on which bags are allowed – only small handbags or clutch-style bags less than 16.5 by 11.4 centimeters – will be in place at the Scotiabank Arena.

All tickets for Scotiabank Arena events will be delivered digitally and will be scanned from fans’ mobile devices at the arena “to maintain a contactless fan experience”. Fans will need to enter through their assigned door

The site will be open 90 minutes before the game, rather than the usual 60 minutes, to allow fans to enter.

The arena will be completely cashless and will only accept debit and credit cards. MLSE claims to have used “improved cleaning practices” as well as performing a detailed analysis of the arena’s ventilation systems.

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This content appears as supplied to The Globe by the original wire service. It was not edited by Globe staff.

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