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Tampa Bay Lightning announce fans will return on March 13th

They join several other NHL teams that have allowed fans back into their buildings

Tampa Bay Lightning v Florida Panthers Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

For the first time in more than a calendar year, Lightning fans will be able to watch their favorite team live and in person. Well, at least a limited amount of Lightning fans will. On Thursday, the Tampa Bay Lightning announced a plan to allow fans to return to Amalie Arena to watch games. Not all fans, but a maximum of 3,800 people will be permitted to attend Lightning home games starting with their March 13th game against the Nashville Predators.

This marks the second time this season that the Lightning announced plans to have fans in the building. Prior to the season the team had planned on having the same amount of fans per game, going so far as to announce ticket sales before backing off four days before the start of the season. At the time they cited the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the area as the primary reason for not having fans in attendance.

With those numbers declining and vaccines rising, the team appears to be comfortable enough to allow a limited number of people back into the building. Over the past few home games the Lightning have allowed select “friends and family” to attend games, now they’ll expand that number while maintaining strict social distancing and practicing enhanced sanitation procedures. According to the press release:

After following an extensive and meticulous process, AMALIE Arena became one of the first arenas in North America to be dual certified by both the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) and the Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC), which is a division of the International Sanitary Supply Association (ISSA).

Fans will be required to wear masks in the stands, in the concourses, and in the plazas when not actively eating or drinking. There will be a lot more plexiglass installed, especially at the box office and entry points. Fans should leave their cash at home as all concessions will be cashless and contactless. All tickets will be digital as well, so make sure phone is charged.

As of right now, no plans have been announced as to how the tickets will actually be sold. The organization is reaching out to season ticket holders over the next few days and more details are likely to emerge after that. It’s safe to assume that a very limited amount will be available directly from the Lightning and prices on secondary markets will be high.

For the team (and the league) the sale of the limited amount of tickets will help offset the financial losses they’ve experienced over the last two seasons.

If all goes well and people behave themselves (keep your mask on and keep washing your hands!) it could be possible that the Lightning increase the number of ticket available for potential playoff games. That’s way down the road at this point and while things are generally looking better in regards to the pandemic, they can also change in an instant. Tampa Bay did include the “this policy is subject to change” disclaimer in the event that numbers spike again in the area.

Earlier this week the Pittsburgh Penguins began allowing fans at their games and roughly half of the teams in the league now allow fans or have plans to in the near future. It’s a bit of an auspicious return date, coming almost a year to the day when the sports world came to a standstill. The last time the Lightning played before home fans was on March 5th, 2020, a 4-0 shutout of the Montreal Canadiens. The last goal that fans celebrated: Victor Hedman on the power play.

Plans for fans for Toronto Raptors games will be announced at a future date.

The press release:

LIGHTNING TO WELCOME FANS BACK TO AMALIE ARENA

TAMPA BAY – Vinik Sports Group, parent company of the Tampa Bay Lightning, announced this morning that it will welcome a maximum of 3,800 fans back to AMALIE Arena for games starting on March 13 when the Bolts take on the Nashville Predators. Information regarding Toronto Raptors games will be released at a later date.

Information for Season Ticket Members will be distributed in the coming days, including for those who have already purchased adjusted ticket plans. For future general ticket opportunities fans are encouraged to sign up for the Lightning Insider email newsletter by clicking HERE (TampaBayLightning.com/Subscriptions). The Lightning have 18 home games remaining on their 2020-21 regular season schedule. The team’s last regular season home game is scheduled for May 7, 2021 against the Dallas Stars.

The highest priority in the decision to welcome guests back to the facility has always been placed on the health and safety of fans and staff based on input from healthcare and government officials. In December, the Lightning and VSG announced its ‘Play it Safe’ campaign, offering a roadmap to ensure the safety of guests and those around them. After following an extensive and meticulous process, AMALIE Arena became one of the first arenas in North America to be dual certified by both the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) and the Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC), which is a division of the International Sanitary Supply Association (ISSA).

Upon entering AMALIE Arena via mobile ticketing, fans will notice increased measures to promote physical distancing, including entry points, concessions, restrooms and more. Concession and retail stands will be cashless and contactless. Hand sanitizing stations have been installed throughout the facility for use. Arena staff will increase frequency of cleaning and sanitation in all areas being used with an emphasis on commonly used surfaces such as seats, handrails and bathrooms. Signage and physical distancing measures have been added to assure six-foot separation between patrons. Ultra-violet disinfectant lights have been installed at various locations including escalator handrails and the number of people allowed on elevators at one time will also be limited. Masks will be required throughout the arena concourses and seating areas when not eating or drinking.

A full list of protocols and procedures can be found HERE.

This policy is subject to change.