Thunder to allow fans at games when new NBA season begins

By Michael Kinney

Eight months ago the Oklahoma City Thunder shut down the NBA with the first official positive test of the coronavirus in the league taking place in at their home game. Since that March 11th day, the Chesapeake Energy Arena has been silent.

In just over a month that will change. The Thunder announced Tuesday it has established new guidelines and protocols for the upcoming season, which will start on Dec. 22.

Oklahoma City will allow a limited number of fans to attend Thunder games at the Chesapeake Arena. However, attending fans will have several protocols to adhere to. Face masks will be required of guests and staff to enter the venue. Chesapeake officials are requesting that masks be worn at all times unless actively eating or drinking. This policy will be strictly monitored, according to the Thunder.

“In order to create appropriate and safe physical distancing, there will be reduced seating capacity for home games,” the Thunder announced. “Health and safety measures for game and event nights will also include six-foot seating distance between groups of guests, required face masks, established contactless, self-service ticket scanning and concession purchases, and mandated, strict hygiene and disinfecting procedures throughout the building.”

The protocols and guidelines were developed by a health and safety task force comprised of representatives from the Thunder and in partnership with ASM Global, the City of Oklahoma City, OKC-County Health Department, OU Health and the NBA.

The joint effort began back in March and has continued throughout the year. The measures the group came up with will be put in place for the upcoming season.

“We remain focused on providing a safe and healthy environment for our guests as they return to enjoy the Thunder Basketball experience,” said Danny Barth, Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer for the Thunder. “We have worked in close collaboration with the City of Oklahoma City, arena management and local health authorities to develop and implement these important measures.”

The Oklahoma City Thunder didn’t say how many fans will be allowed to enter the arena to start the season. Moore details are expected after the 2021-22 schedule is released in the coming weeks. It will more than likely also be dependent on what the COVID-19 positive test rates look like at the time.

Other changes for this season include the Chesapeake Arena has upgraded its HVAC system to provide a higher quality of filtered air to meet ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers) Merv13 standards and electrostatic sprayers will also be used to evenly disperse disinfectants across surfaces.

Full contactless mobile ticketing will be implemented for guests to use self-serve ticket scanners at all arena entrances. Contactless scanners will be installed at all concession and merchandise locations to offer the ability to use credit cards without physically exchanging the card with staff. 

“We are committed to fostering strong public confidence in the health and safety of the experience when guests return to the facility for events,” said Chris Semrau, General Manager of Chesapeake Energy Arena. “We recognize our guests’ desire to fully enjoy the event journey and we have taken the necessary steps to ensure a safe environment and a memorable experience.”

Michael Kinney Media

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