For The First Time In A Year, Columbus Blue Jackets Will Play In Front Of Fans< < Back to
COLUMBUS, Ohio (WOSU) — For the first time in nearly a year, the Columbus Blue Jackets will play in front of at least some fans this week.
The NHL team – along with the Columbus Crew, Clippers, Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds – recently received permission from the state to have fans in the stands. Under new guidance from the Ohio Department of Health, the Blue Jackets and other teams that play indoors can fill arenas up to 25% capacity, while outdoor venues can be up to 30%.
Twenty-five percent of Nationwide Arena’s capacity is about 5,000 people.
“It’s going to be immeasurable,” says Todd Sharrock, the franchise’s head of communications, when asked what it will mean to players and fans. “I know our (players) have been talking about it for about a week now since we were first approved to welcome a limited number of fans back.”
Sharrock says players have frequently discussed how “odd” it is to play in an empty arena. Columbus was among the clubs that suddenly closed their arenas last March as the NHL shut down to limit the spread of coronavirus.
The Blue Jackets played in a “bubble” playoff tournament in August, and finally held a home game in January, with no fans in attendance.
Sharrock says Tuesday’s game will be limited to 10% capacity, which was the team’s original plan before Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced the new statewide rules last week. Sharrock says the team hopes to be closer to 25% attendance by their next home game on March 9.
Safety protocols at Nationwide Arena mirror those in other event venues. Fans will have to go to bluejacketscheckin.com to fill out a brief survey before being cleared to go to the arena. While there, fans will have to wear a mask at all times unless they’re actively eating or drinking.
The team will also sell tickets in “pods” to keep close contacts together. All pods will be at least six feet away from others.
Nationwide is also going cashless for concession stands. For people who only have cash, Sharrock says they’ve installed “reverse ATMs” that people put money into a machine and receive a card to use at a concession stand.
“All of those things are to reduce touch points,” Sharrock says.