PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — For the first time in more than a year, the Portland Trail Blazers had fans in the stands at Moda Center on Friday night.
Just under 2,000 fans were estimated to be allowed to watch the Blazers defeat the Lakers in person.
“It’s kinda surreal because it’s quiet down here, we used to party down here,” said one fan, Jim Vachter. “Hopefully someday soon everybody will have shots and everybody will be able to come and we’ll all be able to party again.”
The Blazers are the last team in the NBA to let fans attend home games since the COVID-19 pandemic spurred a nationwide shutdown last year.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown initially barred fans from attending Blazers games, drawing criticism from star player Damian Lillard on Twitter on Tuesday.
“So we gone be the only damn team in the whole league with no fans,” Lillard Tweeted.
Hours later, Brown loosened restrictions, signaling restaurants to resume indoor dining and for sports fans to attend games in person again at limited capacity. She cited the weekly average for hospitalizations being at 14.9% — just a smidge below the 15% benchmark — as the reason for the reversal.
“I’m just super glad she had a change of heart and is letting people in,” said Blazers fan Erica Clark.
Friday’s game was particularly high stakes as the Trail Blazers and the Lakers were fighting over sixth and seventh spots in the Western Conference. With this victory, the Blazers will advance to the playoff series.
Some presale tickets were released Thursday — however, the general public was able to purchase tickets starting at 10 a.m. Friday. Tickets were sold in pods, allowing up to six guests within the same household to sit together and will also keep them physically distanced from everyone else.
There is also a cash-free policy in place along with a no-bag policy, all in order to create a contactless experience.
Fans were required to complete a health screening check via the Blazers app. Once inside the Moda Center, fans had to wear masks at all times except for eating or drinking.