Fans will be allowed to attend sporting and entertainment events at New Jersey’s largest facilities in limited numbers starting next week, Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday.
New Jersey venues with an indoor seating capacity of 5,000 or more will be allowed to have 10% of those seats occupied by fans starting March 1, the Democratic the governor said on sports radio station WFAN.
For outdoor rooms with more than 5,000 seats, the number will be 15% of the capacity.
Murphy said he decided to allow limited in-person attendance after reviewing a wide range of coronavirus-related statistics, including hospitalizations, the number of hospital admissions versus discharges, the rate of overall positivity for COVID-19 and rate of transmission, and determined that small crowds can be safely permitted.
He said face coverings and social distancing will be required in those places.
“If you buy tickets together you can sit together, but if not we have to split up,” he said.
The order applies to major arenas across the state, including the Prudential Center in Newark, where the NHL’s New Jersey Devils play, and outdoor stadiums, including Met Life Stadium in East Rutherford, home of the Giants and the NFL’s New York Jets.
The governor said about 1,700 to 1,800 fans should be allowed to attend Devils hockey games under the new rules.
“This is a day that all of our staff have been planning, working and looking forward to for 11 months,” Devils president Jake Reynolds said. “Those who enter the building will be confident that our process and protocols are focused on making their safety the number one priority.”
Murphy said he was optimistic that by the start of the NFL season in September, capacity limits could be raised further barring major setbacks in the fight against the pandemic.
“I would be shocked if we weren’t at higher capacity for the Jets, the Giants, for the Rutgers as we head into the fall,” Murphy said. “We have to do it in a safe and responsible way.”
The Giants and Jets released a joint statement praising the move and hoping for additional breathing room before the season begins.
“As the months go by, we hope the data will continue to be positive and the number of people allowed into Met Life Stadium will steadily increase,” they said. “We missed seeing our loyal fans at stadium events last year and are delighted to welcome them back in 2021.”
Rutgers University, however, said it was bound by tighter restrictions that would prevent them from selling tickets to the general public, at least for now.
“Despite this increase, Rutgers Athletics will adhere to the Big Ten Conference’s requirement that fan attendance be limited to the four tickets awarded to each coach and student-athlete for family members only,” the university said in a statement. a statement following Murphy’s announcement.
Marc de Grandpré, general manager of the New York Red Bulls football team, called the resumption of fan attendance “very encouraging and exciting”.
In a related announcement, Murphy also said parents or guardians of college athletes will be able to attend their children’s games effective immediately, a step that was recently taken for high school athletics.