The majority of Everett Silvertips fans will be ready to return to the stands, but the verdict is not unanimous.
Last week the WHL, which canceled the conclusion of the 2019-20 season because of the coronavirus outbreak, announced its plan for starting the 2020-21 season. The goal is to begin playing games on Oct. 2. However, because the WHL is dependent upon attendance for revenue, returning to play is contingent upon arenas being allowed to open to 50% capacity. That’s a size some may wish to avoid during the pandemic.
Therefore, this week’s Seattle Sidelines poll asked readers whether they’d feel comfortable attending a Silvertips game at Angel of the Winds Arena with the stands at 50% capacity.
POLL: The WHL will only hold games once arenas open to 50% capacity. Would you feel comfortable attending a Silvertips game with Angel of the Winds Arena open at 50%? Full context here: https://t.co/ksbmHAMSei
— Nick Patterson (@NickHPatterson) June 22, 2020
When adding up the votes cast on the poll posted on Twitter and the one posted on the blog, 62% of responders said they would be comfortable attending an Everett game with the stands at 50% capacity, while 38% said they wouldn’t. So more than half are on board, but not two-thirds.
It’s important to remember this is a snapshot of how people feel right now. There’s more than three months between today and the targeted start date, and a lot can happen between now and then. Right now Snohomish County seems to have a decent handle on the outbreak, but is still short of being eligible to apply for Phase 3 of Washington State’s four-phase reopening plan. We don’t know what effect Governor Jay Inslee’s order for wearing masks in public will have. We don’t know if there will be a second wave of coronavirus outbreaks in the fall.
What would 50% capacity look like at Angel of the Winds Arena? The arena lists the hockey seating capacity at 8,149, so 50% of that would be a little more than 4,000. The Tips averaged an announced attendance of 5,730 last season, so 50% capacity is roughly 70% of Everett’s average, meaning the Tips would take a financial hit. That said, weeknight games often draw fewer than 4,000, so 50% capacity wouldn’t look out of the ordinary.
The question is, how the arena would go about making 50% capacity safe? How would the available seats be arranged to account for physical distancing? How would the concourses be managed to provide distancing for foot traffic? How often would the restrooms be sanitized? Kelowna Rockets president Bruce Hamilton, who also serves as the chairman of the WHL’s board of governors, told infonews.ca that the league is employing software to help deal with some of these issues.
The decision may ultimately be taken out of the fans’ hands. The WHL said all six of the league’s jurisdictions (Washington, Oregon, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba) would have to receive clearance for the league to open before any games were played, and some of the Canadian provinces appear to have stricter guidelines for large gatherings.
There’s a lot still in play with this situation. But when games do restart, at least according to this poll, a majority of Tips fans are prepared to come back.