Philadelphia sports teams will be able to play at 100% crowd capacity earlier than originally planned.
Mayor Kenney announced Friday that in response to the lowest number of new COVID cases since late September 2020 and positive rates below 3%, the city will lift virtually all Safer-at-Home restrictions, including density limits, maximum capacity limits, distancing rules, etc. on June 2.
It was previously announced that the city would lift restrictions on June 11, but the continued low rates prompted the change in plans.
The 76ers, who have been able to play at 50% capacity at the Wells Fargo Center, will now be able to see that increase to 100% starting with Wednesday’s Game 5 of their playoff series, if that game is necessary. The Sixers lead the best-of-seven series, 2-0.
The Phillies were able to play in front of as many as 16,000 fans, and that will increase to 100% starting with their game against the Washington Nationals on June 4. Their most recent home game was Sunday’s 6-2 win against the Boston Red Sox. The attendance for that game was 15,360.
During the Sixers’ 120-95 win at the Wells Fargo Center in Game 2 on Wednesday, the attendance was 11,160.
Sixers president Chris Heck responded to this new ruling in a statement released by the team:
“We would like to extend our gratitude to Mayor Kenney and the Philadelphia Department of Health for the work they’ve done to safely increase capacity to 100% for all businesses, effective June 2. There is no better time to welcome home our passionate and loyal fans than right now, in the midst of what we hope will be a historic playoff run. Our fans provide a home court advantage that is both unmatched and necessary as we work to bring an NBA championship to Philadelphia. We also want to thank our partners at Comcast Spectacor for their hard work and resilience through the obstacles and challenges the pandemic has presented to our industry over the last year. We encourage everyone to get vaccinated and will continue to use our platform to educate and assist our community.”
Valerie Camillo, president of business operations for the Wells Fargo Center, released the following statement:
”Opening our doors to more than 20,000 fans is an important moment for our entire city. At the beginning of the pandemic, the Wells Fargo Center was one of the first and most significant buildings in Philadelphia to close its doors, so our full reopening sends a clear message that our city is back.”
The Wells Fargo Center has addressed the health and safety issues caused by COVID by completing an $11 million renovation of its HVAC systems, installing a new, state-of-the-art air filtration system that replaces all the air in the arena’s seating bowl every 30 minutes.
The city announced that the indoor mask mandate and 11 p.m. last call for dining orders will continue to be enforced until the health department reviews the state of the pandemic, and it might drop those restrictions on June 11.
Earlier this month, Phillies manager Joe Girardi talked about what it would mean to play at 100% crowd capacity when the team returns home.
“The more fans, the better the atmosphere,” Girardi said. “I can’t imagine what that’s going to be like. I haven’t been to Philly [when it’s full capacity] except as an opposing team. I’m really actually looking forward to it.”
Inquirer staff writer Matt Breen contributed to this report.