Everett Silvertips winger Cole Fonstad yells after scoring a goal against the Spokane Chiefs on Jan. 26 at Angel of the Winds Arena. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Everett Silvertips winger Cole Fonstad yells after scoring a goal against the Spokane Chiefs on Jan. 26 at Angel of the Winds Arena. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

POLL: Attending a Tips game at 50% capacity, yea or nay?

The WHL will only hold games once arenas are allowed to open to 50% capacity.

So how do you feel about 50% capacity?

Last week the WHL announced its return-to-play plan for the 2020-21 season, and the aspect that caught the eye was the requirement that arenas open to at least 50% capacity before games are played.

The junior hockey league, which includes the Everett Silvertips, was forced to shut down in March because of the coronavirus outbreak, leading to the cancellation of the remainder of the 2019-20 season and all of the 2020 playoffs. Since then people wondered how the WHL would proceed with its 2020-21 season. Last Wednesday the league announced it was targeting Oct. 2 as the start date, and last Thursday commissioner Ron Robison held a virtual press conference to further hash out details about the plan.

Not everything about reopening has been determined, including the fact that the Oct. 2 target start date is fluid. But one thing Robison was definitive about was that the league needed something in the vicinity of 50% capacity at arenas before games could be played.

This is significant, as that is the type of number we have yet to see posted by sports leagues. Major professional sports that have already resumed competition (NASCAR, European soccer), as well as those that are in the process of restarting (NBA, NHL, MLS), are playing without fans in the stands. In Snohomish County, the one sports venue that’s set to resume is Evergreen Speedway, which beginning Saturday will start off by conducting races without fans, then hope to transition to 25% capacity.

So 50% capacity is something that hasn’t even entered the discussion yet as sports try to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

The thing with the WHL is that, unlike pro sports leagues, the WHL depends upon attendance for its revenue. Pro sports have television contracts, but there’s no TV money coming in for the Silvertips and the rest of the WHL’s franchises, so playing in empty arenas isn’t a viable option financially. The league has determined that 50% capacity is required to generate enough revenue to operate.

But does 50% capacity at an indoor arena work with physical distancing measures? Evergreen Speedway is talking about 25% capacity, and that’s at a much larger facility that is outdoors, thus being less conducive to transmission of the virus. Would the indoor Angel of the Winds Arena realistically be able to create a seating plan and foot-traffic flow that ensures at least 6 feet distance between pairs or groups of spectators, so as to stay within distancing guidelines?

And most importantly, what about the fans? You are the ones who ultimately decide if this is a workable arrangement. Would you be comfortable attending a Silvertips game with Angel of the Winds Arena at 50% capacity? Let us know here:


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