It has been almost a year since fans have been allowed to attend Madison Square Garden due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In that time, hockey has been played in a bubble and then only divisionally, as the safety of everyone has been the top priority in an attempt to keep the sport going.
Governor Andrew Cuomo had recently announced that 10% capacity would be allowed at all state arenas, with Madison Square Garden releasing their Health & Safety Reopening FAQ to the public yesterday. While fan attendance will begin again on February 23rd for New York State, the New York Rangers first partially fan-filled game will be on the 26th against the Boston Bruins. There will be many changes inside the arena in order to comply with state and health officials.
Negative PCR COVID test within 72 hours w/ID— Tom Urtz Jr. (@TomUrtzJr) February 16, 2021
Need to pass health survey on MSG app 12hr prior
Entrances based on seats
Temp must be below 100.4 degrees
Masks except while eat/drink
Cashless concessions/digital tickets
Socially distanced "pods" of two seats.
Each pod 6 feet apart https://t.co/L0ylZvXgFQ
Before going into what the Rangers and MSG are going to be doing, be sure to checkout my previous story on what other teams in the NHL have done so far:
Tickets for the games will be digital and accessible through the MSG Venue App and ticket holders will be given designated entrances depending on their seats. Through the app, fans can also find their mandatory health survey. The health survey will become available on the app 12 hours before the game and it is suggested that all attendees complete their survey prior to arriving at the Garden. It will only have six questions related to COVID-19 such as any current symptoms, contact with anyone who has tested positive, and about recent travel. Upon arrival, guests will have their temperatures checked for anything above 100.4 degrees. Guests will also have to provide confirmation from a healthcare provider of a negative PCR COVID-19 test that has been taken within 72 hours of the day of the game. A negative test will also be needed regardless of having been fully vaccinated.
The PCR COVID-19 test has been stated to be a more reliable and a more accurate test. The PCR test detects the presence of the virus’ genetic material whereas the rapid tests, are antigen tests that detect specific proteins on the surface of the coronavirus. If one tests positive with a rapid test, that person is highly likely to be infected; however, there have been higher chances of false negatives with rapid tests which is most likely why the negative PCR test is the golden ticket in. Identification will be checked with the test results. Additionally, if a test comes back negative prior to the game or if a person is feeling symptomatic the day of the game, they have the chance to request a refund for their ticket. MSG employees who are specifically working the game are also required to complete the same health screening as fans.
Once past the health screening process, everyone must be wearing a face covering except for when eating or drinking, which is only allowed to be done in their seats. It seems that proper face coverings are only masks because bandanas, gaiters, and scarves are not permitted. There will be appropriate social distancing throughout the Garden and seating pods will consist of two seats each. These pods will be six feet apart from one another. The MSG Team Store will not be open but there will be pop-up stands as well as limited food concession stands open. All of these transactions will be cashless. Restrooms will be open and have been modified with limited capacity and deep cleanings. Guests will also be expected to socially distance themselves on escalators and all around the concourses. The designated entrances are also meant to control traffic which would decrease the usual congested entering and exiting of the arena. Finally, there will be constant cleaning and disinfecting of high-contact surfaces by MSG employees.
All of this being said, Season Ticket Members and suite holders will have priority to tickets starting at just fifty dollars. Unfortunately, due to the extremely limited capacity, it seems that tickets are not expected to be available to the general public for now. The Season Ticket Members and suite holders will have the opportunity to purchase tickets to one of the three available games. The minimal amount of tickets available for purchase and the minimal amount of games with tickets available should prove helpful in the case that games continue to be rescheduled. Tickets for February 26th and 28th against the Bruins, and tickets for March 2nd against the Buffalo Sabres, will be on sale today at noon. Although many are unsure about limited fan attendance and the coronavirus is still ever-present, I do hope that this can be seen as a hopeful step in trying to return to some semblance of normalcy or continuing to work together in creating a new normal moving forward.