SALT LAKE CITY — For the first time this season, the Utah Jazz will allow fans to sit courtside for home games at Vivint Arena... as long as they're fully vaccinated.
The team will expand attendance to 6,700 fans starting with Saturday night's game against Toronto. The team has previously allowed 5,600 people to attend home games.
The attendance increase will fill the arena to 33 percent of capacity.
"There's nothing like attending a live sporting event... I feel like you're part of the game," said Jazz fan Andrew McCullough.
McCullough lives in St. George and says his family usually comes up for several games a year. They haven't been able to do that since the pandemic started.
While he's still able to catch games on the TV with his young son, little Andrew — who loves wearing his Jazz jersey and yelling "Gobert!" at the TV — it's just not the same.
"It feels like you're more of the kind of Jazz community and just the camaraderie," McCullough said, of being at a game in person.
His family plans to drive up for the home game in a couple of weeks, and McCullough is excited that even more seats are opening up.
"It's kind of a small thing when you think about like, 'Hey, the Jazz are getting people get back in the stands,'" McCullough said. "But it's indicative of the larger whole which is, 'Hey as a society here in Utah and across the nation, we are moving in the in the right direction.' Obviously, there's still more to be done, but it's awesome to see so really, yeah, really pumped about that."
Fans who wish, and can afford, to sit courtside must show proof of being fully vaccinated, along with a negative COVID-19 test result.
Anyone attending games must still wear masks and practice social distancing.
In addition to the increased capacity at the Jazz game this weekend, Real Salt Lake is doubling the number of fans in Rio Tinto from 5,000 to 10,000. That puts the stadium at half capacity.
RSL Interim President John Kimball said seats will be assigned, and fans will need to wear masks the entire game because they'll be sitting less than six feet away from other groups.
Those who want to purchase food will need to eat at tables outside of the stands.
Kimball indicated Friday that 10,000 is just a starting point for the season.
"Utah is doing a phenomenal job with their vaccines," he said. "And as that progresses, we really hope to be open to a full stadium this summer."