ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — With a multitude of COVID restrictions easing across New York Wednesday, including mask requirements for the fully vaccinated and capacity limits, local sports and entertainment venues are adjusting their operations.
Starting Wednesday, arenas can open back up to 33% capacity, and fully for those who are immunized.
The changes are welcome news for the Times Union Center, as the arena prepares for the Albany Empire’s season opener next weekend.
“It’s going to be a fun atmosphere, the team’s fantastic, the coach, the players are all raring to go,” said Bob Belber, the arena’s general manager.
While the arena recently hosted the NCAA Hockey Tournament earlier in the year, that event could only be held at 10% capacity, and fans were sectioned off in socially distanced seating anywhere between six and nine feet.
4,000 fans will now be allowed inside for the beginning of the Empire season, with two designated sections for fans who are fully vaccinated.
“I do expect to see some changes as we move forward with more sections that are dedicated to vaccinated people only,” Belber said.
Sticking to the new CDC guidance, masks will be optional in the vaccinated sections, but everyone walking through the arena’s common areas will be asked to cover their face.
Wednesday’s new guidance is also exciting news for the arts, as the Albany Symphony is gearing up to welcome guests back into performances, after over a year of performing for virtual crowds.
“Live music is wonderful but it’s only that much energy when we have the audience members actually there. I know the musicians feel it,” says Anna Kuwabara, Executive Director of the Albany Symphony.
The symphony will be holding a live music festival next month at the Palace Theatre, where guests will be seated socially distanced.
“We are not doing like some of the sports teams are doing, like the vaccinated sections. At this point, I think we’ll have enough capacity that we won’t have to do that,” Kuwabara explained.
Like the Times Union Center, masks will be required for everyone when walking throughout the theater, but fully vaccinated people can drop their masks when seated.
“You can take off your mask, breathe, relax and enjoy the concert,” she said.
The new guidance taking effect Wednesday also means outdoor stadiums can go to full capacity for inoculated fans.
Like the Times Union Center, the Tri-City ValleyCats will have designated sections depending on vaccine status when they open their season next month.