New York Reopens Large Venues This Month, But Pandemic Protocols Limit Capacity And Requires Tests

Andrew Cuomo
Sipa via AP Images

A few green shoots of pandemic hope emerged today in New York, as state Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that large sports stadiums and entertainment arenas in New York will be able to open this month with limited capacity.

Venues with a 10,000-person or more capacity will open Feb. 23. Attendance will be limited to 10% of capacity, and everyone will be required to produce a negative Covid-19 test.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles remains tightly locked down, with little hope that a similar measure will be enacted anytime soon.

The New York reopening is unlikely to have much effect beyond the major sports industry. Most concert promoters in large venues would lose money on such limited attendance. Broadway will also remain shuttered.

Still, the move portends better days ahead for a live events industry that has been almost non-existent since last March, throwing thousands out of work and causing severe hardship to the ancillary businesses that serve the live events industry.

New York’s lifting of restrictions came after what Cuomo said was the “unparalleled success” of a similar program for a Buffalo Bills playoff game last month. The Bills stadium in Orchard Park, NY allowed 7,000 fans, all of whom underwent Covid-19 tests in order to attend.

Under New York’s new rules, would-be attendees must obtain a negative PCR test within 72 hours of an event in order to enter. They will also have assigned and socially-distant seating.

“If you’re negative, you are negative, so the testing is the key,” Cuomo said today.  “We are now going to extend the Buffalo Bills example.”

The limited attendance will boost the fortunes of Major League Baseball teams, who largely played before empty seats last year. A few Knicks, Nets, Rangers and Islanders games, as well as college basketball, will also benefit.

Yankee Stadium and the Mets’ venue, Citi Field, are now being used as vaccination stops. Cuomo said state government would work to keep that going, even as the games progress.

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