Here’s what Boston fans can expect when they return to Garden for Bruins, Celtics games

BOSTON (WHDH) - The TD Garden in Boston will once again host fans for Bruins and Celtics games in March after the state on Thursday announced that large venues that accommodate more than 5,000 people will be permitted to reopen, as long as public health metrics continue to trend positive.

The first Bruins game with fans will be on March 23 and the first Celtics game with fans will be on March 29, the TD Garden said shortly after Gov. Charlie Baker made it known that the state will move into Phase 4, Step 1 of its reopening plan on March 22.

When the arena reopens, it will only be allowed to host 12 percent of its normal capacity.

Amy Latimer, president of TD Garden, says arena crews have leveraged technology to create touch-free event experiences and re-engineered operational and sanitation procedures to minimize contact risk and bolster hygiene.

“We have been working diligently with public health officials and experts for nearly a year to create the highest standards of guidelines and protocols to keep everyone as safe as possible at TD Garden,” said Latimer said in a news release. “Using these new Play It Safe protocols, following updated guidelines from the CDC, and implementing the GBAC Star arena cleaning standards, we take the reopening of TD Garden very seriously and are committed to the health and safety of our fans while providing a great guest experience.”

The Garden is also rolling out the “Play It Safe” commitment to care, a comprehensive program designed to reduce the spread of COVID19. The protocols include:

  • Play It Safe” Promise: An online health and safety agreement that must be completed and acknowledged on the day of the event by any individual entering TD Garden committing to the ‘Play It Safe’ protocols.
  • Mask Required: All fans attending a game or event at TD Garden are required to wear a mask at all times, except while actively eating or drinking in their seat as permitted. TD Garden guests should follow mask guidelines from the CDC.
  • All-Mobile Tickets: To reduce physical touchpoints, all events tickets are mobile only. Guests can download their tickets on the TD Garden Hub app for Bruins games and concerts, for the easiest all-in-one TD Garden experience. Celtics fans can download and display their tickets on the Boston Celtics app. Bruins fans can use the Boston Bruins app.
  • Pod Seating: Ticketed seats will be sold in pods of 2 and 4, and physically distanced at least 6 feet between groups.
  • New Entry Gates & Designated ‘Neighborhoods’: Guests will be given a specific entry gate and asked to enter the arena only through assigned entrances based on seating location. The arena has been divided into east and west hemispheres, and guests are asked to stay within their neighborhood to minimize contact between groups.
  • No Bag Policy: Strictly enforced upon entry to minimize touch points, ensure safety protocols and expedite the entry process.
  • Mobile Concession Ordering: New amenity available to all fans, guests can now skip the lines and order food and beverage online and through the TD Garden Hub app and pick it up at a designated concession stand.
  • New Touch-Free Amenities: Use the TD Garden Hub App to access features such as pre-paid parking, mobile ticketing, ordering food and beverage for contactless pick-up and using the mobile wallet for cashless transactions for concessions and retail.
  • Physically Distanced Exit: At the end of the event, TD Garden staff will assist guests in a physically distanced exit procedure, similar to airline exit strategy.

The Garden says crews are also sanitizing the entire arena before, during, after events, and signage instructions for physical distancing have been posted in all areas. Air filters have also been upgraded.

Hand sanitizing stations will be available throughout the arena.

“An incredible amount of work and collaboration has taken place over the past year in preparation for the return of fans to TD Garden,” Bruins President Cam Neely said. “The processes and protocols that have been put in place are structured to ensure the safety, wellbeing, and enjoyment of our fans. We are beyond excited to welcome back the best fans in hockey to TD Garden as their energy and enthusiasm have been greatly missed.”

Celtics President Rich Gotham added, “We’re grateful for the hard work of our colleagues at TD Garden, the Bruins, and the NBA, and for the guidance we’ve received from the Governor’s office and city officials. “We have great confidence that everyone’s diligence will provide a safe, welcoming, and enjoyable experience.”

A local doctor told 7News that there is potentially a risk with opening these arenas up.

“But at some point in time we have to be able to move towards a pre-pandemic state of at least close-to-normalcy or at least close to pre-pandemic levels, and what is our threshold for deciding when is it perfect to do that,” Saint Vincent Hospital’s Chief of Medicine Dr. George Abraham said.

Gillette Stadium also released a statement saying that they are preparing to host New England Revolution games in April.

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