If you listen closely during sports broadcasts these days, you’ll have noticed an uptick in crowd noise coming from your TV. We’re talking real crowd noise — not the piped-in kind. Teams are steadily welcoming more fans back after having played in front of little-to-no fans last season due to COVID-19, and it’s adding a hint of normalcy to sporting events.
Nice, isn’t it?
Obviously, the pandemic isn’t over, which is why most sports venues are not operating at full capacity. But if you’re determined to attend a sporting event, you’ll want to have an idea of how many tickets are being made available and who has access to them.
It can be hard to keep track of the various policies. Every team is different. So in the blurbs below, New Times breaks down where each Miami pro sports team stands on live crowds, as of mid-April. (One thing they all seem to agree on: Facemasks are mandatory.)
Note: We'll do our best to update this information periodically until the New Normal looks more like the old normal. If you notice any out-of-date info, please let us know with an email to email@example.com.
Miami is all about exclusive VIP sections, but none quite matched the one the Miami Heat introduced April 1 at American Airlines Arena (soon to be known as the FTX Arena if all goes as planned). The short-lived incentive saw the Heat designate a specific entrance and two sections in the lower bowl for fans who'd been fully vaccinated for at least 14 days. The team eventually eliminated the perk, owing to the difficulty in enforcing its eligibility requirements.
The Heat had become one of the first NBA teams to admit fans this season when it opened doors to 1,500 season ticket holders in late January. The team has since raised capacity to 4,000.
New season. New ballpark name. Same old crowds. The Miami Marlins welcomed 7,062 fans during the April 1 home opener, marking the first time they'd played in front of a crowd since 2019. That meant LoanDeport Park (formerly known as Marlins Park) was only 19 percent full, which falls below the 25 percent capacity of 9,300 the organization has set for the start of the season.
Was the pandemic partly to blame? Probably. But if it’s any comfort, the Marlins have implemented digital tickets, spread-out seating, prepaid parking, and mobile food and drink orders to make the experience as contactless as possible. Also, drones are deployed between games to disinfect the stands. Advance single-game tickets are available for games through the month of June; all orders must be for a minimum of two tickets.
Let’s try this again. After spending the majority of its much-anticipated inaugural season playing in front of empty pink and black seats, Inter Miami opened its 2021 season at home in front of a capacity crowd of 8,000. The club is hopeful it can increase capacity to 16,000 at Drv Pnk Stadium (formerly Inter Miami CF Stadium) in Fort Lauderdale by the fourth home game, scheduled for May 29.
Season-ticket holders got first dibs for the first three matches, as was the case at the end of the 2020 season when a very limited number of fans were let in for the final three home games. Single-match tickets went on sale to the general public last week.
Who says hockey can’t thrive in South Florida? As of mid-April, the Panthers rank second in the NHL in average attendance for the season, according to Hockey Reference. That probably has more to do with the fact that the Panthers admit more fans at home (5,000 or around 25 percent capacity) than all the other NHL teams except for the Dallas Stars — but let South Florida have this.
The Panthers were one of the first three NHL teams to admit fans at the start of the season in January. And they did so with the blessing of the International WELL Building Institute, which awarded the BB&T Center the WELL Health-Safety rating for COVID-19 preparedness. The arena has gone completely cashless, changed every air filter, and made bathroom equipment such as faucets and soap dispensers motion-activated to cut back on surface contact.
The Dolphins didn’t budge last October when Gov. Ron DeSantis pushed for Florida’s NFL teams to pack their stadiums. Instead, they opted to cap Hard Rock Stadium capacity at around 13,000 (or about 20 percent). Other precautions included banning game-day tailgating and upgrading metal detectors to speed up lines.
What kind of protocols can we expect at the Dolphins' home games come fall? It's still too early to say, but NFL commissioner Roger Goodell told reporters this spring that he believes we’ll see full stadiums all around the league during the 2021-22 season.
From Rog’s lips to God’s ears.
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