CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Charlotte Hornets welcomed fans back to Spectrum Center for the first time this season as they took the floor against the Toronto Raptors Saturday night.
For most fans, this will be their first opportunity to see star rookie LaMelo Ball play in person. The Hornets started the second half of the season Thursday night at home against Detroit with 500 frontline health care workers in attendance. Saturday will be the first time tickets were on sale to the general public.
According to the team's website, Spectrum Center will operate at 15% capacity to follow Gov. Roy Cooper's executive order on large gatherings. That equates to about 3,000 fans. Social distancing will be implemented with limited capacities in elevators, restrooms and common areas. The only exception to this will be fans in the same seating pod.
"It was surreal almost to drive here and realize we hadn't done it in over a year," Leonard Saltzman said.
"Excited and glad to be able to come back for something that's kinds of normal," Lori Webster said.
Tickets were sold in pods of one to four seats with a limited number of one- and three-seat pods. Each pod has a six-foot radius surrounding it to maintain social distancing in the arena.
To limit large crowds from gathering outside Spectrum Center, fans were allowed to enter at staggered times based on their seating arrangement. After the game, fans will be directed to specific doorways to exit the arena based on their seat location.
Trade Street Entrance
60 minutes before tip-off: Sections 110-114, Sections 222-225
30 minutes before tip-off: Sections 115-117, Sections 226-229
Fifth Street Entrance
60 minutes before tip-off: Sections 105-109, Sections 209-212
30 minutes before tip-off: Sections 101-104, Sections 205-208
Bank of America Fifth Street Executive Entrance
60 minutes before tip-off: All Suites, R01 - R19, T01 - T11
Trade and Caldwell Entrance
60 minutes before tip-off: R20 - R37, T12 - T22
All fans must complete a COVID-19 screening, which is available on the Hornets app, before entering the arena. Fans will be required to show a completed screening on their phone before entering.
Face masks are required for all fans above the age of 2, and they must cover your nose and mouth. Neck gaiters, bandanas, and masks with vents will not be allowed. Masks will be worn at all times unless a person is actively eating or drinking in their seat or a designated area on the concourse.
To limit physical contact even further, Spectrum Center will have 100% cash-free transactions at all concession stands and merchandise booths. Fans can purchase food and beverage items through the Hornets app for express pickup so lines are short.
"We've been preparing all year for tonight," Hornets President & Vice Chairman Fred Whitfield said.
While the arena was only at 15% there's hope that more fans will soon be back.
"The more the numbers come down of people getting COVID, the more people that are vaccinated, I think the more we'll be able to get more capacity into our games," Whitfield said.