Attending a sporting event in Snohomish County will soon be a possibility.
In a press conference Thursday, Gov. Jay Inslee announced new capacity limitations for sporting events as he unveiled Phase 3 of the state’s “Healthy Washington” reopening plan.
He also gave the green light for high-contact indoor sports like basketball and wrestling to start competition in the new phase, which all counties will enter March 22.
Phase 3 allows outdoor events at facilities with permanent seating up to 25% capacity, a change that affects both professional and high school sports, as well as motorsports, rodeos and other outdoor spectator events.
Events held at larger venues can allow 25% capacity or up to 9,000 people, whichever less.
Those in attendance at all events must wear masks and follow social-distancing protocols.
High school and youth sports will be allowed to start welcoming more fans at events starting March 18.
In Snohomish County, many prep sports fans will have to wait and see if they’ll be allowed to start attending games for the first time this year.
Wesco athletics directors will likely meet early next week to address the expanded attendance limitations, according to league president Don Dalziel. The conference currently isn’t allowing attendance at events.
The Emerald Sound Conference is scheduled to meet Friday, according to league president Scott Sifferman. The league’s athletic directors will discuss the new guidelines then. Currently, the conference is allowing schools to open their doors to spectators. Fans from visiting schools are not allowed.
As of early Thursday evening, Everett Silvertips governor Zoran Rajcic said the team was in the process of figuring out how the new capacity limitations impact them.
The Silvertips are scheduled to open a 24-game regular season on March 20, when they host the Spokane Chiefs at Angel of the Winds Arena.
“There’s still a lot of clarification that we don’t know,” Rajcic said. “… We still don’t know what all the rules are — what we can or cannot do yet.
“If fans can get in the building,” he added, “we’ll figure out a way to make it happen with the rules and regulations we have.”
Evergreen Speedway in Monroe will welcome fans back, according to its website. The 12,500-person capacity venue is set to open its season March 27.
— Evergreen Speedway (@EVGSpeedway) March 11, 2021
Guidelines for minor league baseball attendance will be revisited in mid-April, which could allow the Everett AquaSox to bring in fans at a capacity higher than the 25%.
The announcement of the new phase was good news for local basketball players, wrestlers and their coaches, all of whom have been patiently waiting for guidance on when their sports could resume competition. Basketball and wrestling teams could practice but intrasquad competitions weren’t allowed under Phase 2 of the reopening plan.
“My phone has already been blowing up (with text messages) from the players. They’re excited,” Everett boys basketball coach Bobby Thompson said. “The kids are just itching. They’re ready to go. They’ve been counting down the days and hoping for the day that this announcement would come out. Within minutes, I had about a half-dozen text messages from players that were already dialed into it.”
Under the new plan, benchmark metrics used to place counties in phases of the recovery plan will be used on a county-by-county basis and will not longer apply to regions. Snohomish County was previously grouped into the Puget Sound Region with King and Pierce counties.
In order for a county to remain in Phase 3, counties must stay below 200 new cases per 100,000 resident over 14 days and weekly hospitalizations rates can not surpass five per 100,000 residents.
Herald writers Cameron Van Til and Jerry Cornfield contributed to this story.