TAMPA, Fla. — The thunder just got a little louder for Lightning home games.
The team is now allowing 4,200 fans in the stands of Amalie Arena instead of 3,800.
Then, the number of fans allowed in for the first round of playoffs will be 7,000. That would put Amalie Arena at 37 percent capacity.
The capacity increase is a way to try and give more season ticket members a chance to go to at least one first-round game, a spokesperson with Vinik Sports Group said.
For the playoff games, seating pods will be separated by 4-5.5 feet depending on the location.
The Tampa Bay Lightning opened their season this January without fans in the stands because of increasing COVID-19 cases.
It wasn't until March that the Vinik Sports Group announced it would host up to 3,800 fans in stands of Amalie Arena.
Fans can expect increased safety measures including physical distancing, cashless and contactless concession and retail stands, and sanitizing stations. The arena staff will also be increasing cleaning efforts for commonly-used surfaces including UV disinfectant lights.
Masks will be also required throughout the arena concourses and seating areas when not eating or drinking.
Public health experts like Dr. Tom Unnasch out of USF Health, are not worried about the increase of fans. As long as the other measures are enforced.
“The two key things are making sure you've got really good ventilation going. And, to beat on my favorite subject, make sure that everybody's wearing a mask," said Dr. Unnasch.
There could be a concern, however, for those on the ice. Findings out of Yale University School of Public Health do show that some of the air doesn’t circulate well at all.
"My take away thought from the findings were sort of twofold. One is that what's really happening is that you have this cold air that's coming off of the ice, and it's not really mixing very well with the rest of the air in the arena," explained Unnasch. That air sits above the ice and remains there because of the colder temperatures.
“So if you're away from the ice, and you're in the areas that's getting mixed pretty well, I think, yeah, like the fans are going to be pretty safe if they're wearing masks," said Unnasch.
His recommendation for the players, to have as many vaccinated as possible, and if they are not, he recommends COVID tests for everyone that will be on the ice.
You can find a full list of protocols and information on how to buy tickets here.
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