Philadelphia sports fans will soon be released from their pods as the city announced Tuesday that all capacity limits will be lifted on June 11.
Before opening next month to full capacity, the teams will be allowed to increase stadium capacities from 25% to 50% beginning May 21. The 76ers said Tuesday that they will open the Wells Fargo Center to 50% -- roughly 10,000 fans -- in time for their first postseason game, which could be as early as May 22.
“We hope this is only the beginning and look forward to welcoming back even more fans throughout the playoffs,” the 76ers said in a statement.
“I am really happy for our home games that we are going to have more fans,” said Sixers coach Doc Rivers, whose team was allowed to start playing home games in front of 3,100 fans March 14, when the limit was 20% capacity. “I mean, the fans we have now, it feels like it’s a sold-out arena. You know, so adding more fans only adds to that. And I think our fan base is as good as anyone, so it’s a good thing for us.”
The city’s sports teams have hosted fans during the pandemic by seating them in “pods,” or socially distanced clusters. That won’t be possible when stadiums reach full capacity.
The Union will open its stadium in Chester to full capacity on June 23. The Eagles and Flyers will be permitted in the fall to have full capacity, and the Phillies said they’ll have more details “once our specific capacity plan is set.”
City Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said the Phils will be allowed to fill the seats on June 12 when they open a two-game series against the Yankees. The Phillies last hosted the Yankees in 2018, and the average attendance for the three-game series was 43,244.
“The more fans, the better the atmosphere,” said Phillies second-year manager Joe Girardi. “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 June 11.”
The Phillies have averaged 10,379 fans per home game this season as the 43,000-seat ballpark has not been permitted to exceed 25% capacity. So it was quite a difference for the Phils last weekend in Atlanta when the Braves opened their ballpark to full capacity.
The average attendance for the three-game series was 35,877, providing the Phillies with a taste of what they could expect next month at home.
“It was nice to see all the people in the stands,” Girardi said. “It was loud to a certain degree. ... It was really good to see so many people in a baseball park. It just signifies that maybe we’re getting closer to the end of this. We’re getting near the finish line, which has been a long time coming.”
Fans will still be required to wear masks; the city does not yet have a date for when it will lift the mask mandate. But fans will no longer be required to purchase food when buying alcohol, as the city is lifting that requirement on May 21. To abide by the rule, fans purchasing beer this season at Citizens Bank Park were forced to buy food.
The Phillies will have 48 regular-season home games remaining starting June 12.
“Today’s announcement by the City of Philadelphia to lift stadium capacity limits in time for the start of the 2021 NFL season is tremendous news for the Philadelphia Eagles, our fans, and the community,” Eagles president Don Smolenski said in a statement. “We are excited to welcome our fans home and look forward to Lincoln Financial Field returning to form as an unrivaled home-field advantage for our team. We have always been committed to providing our fans a great gameday experience in a safe, clean and friendly environment. As we look ahead to a full stadium, we encourage our community to get vaccinated.”
Staff writers Keith Pompey and EJ Smith contributed to this article.