“It’s hard to believe it was a year ago this week that we had our last host of fans here at the building” New Jersey Devils President Hugh Weber told “Mornings with Maria” on Tuesday. “It’s been a long year, long-anticipated return for fans.”
Under strict new safety precautions, the Newark, N.J., sports and entertainment venue will be allowed to welcome 10% of their usual capacity, or approximately 1,800 guests, into the stands. Weber told Maria Bartiromo fans will be seated in pods of two to four people.
Weber, who is also the president of Harris Blitzer Sports and Entertainment, said he hopes the limited reopening is the first of many steps toward a return to full capacity.
“There’s, I think, a bright future for people to get back to what they think is normalcy,” Weber said. “And we hope this is a path to where we’ll have not just 10%, but this will be able to grow to a plan where we’ll be able to bring back 15 [percent], 20 [percent] and then obviously a full building over time.”
How quickly this phased reopening takes place will depend on several factors, Weber said.
“I think that there is a lot of contingencies that we’ve had to work through,” Weber said, citing both the speed of the vaccine rollout and the ability for sports venues to show they can operate safely.
“We’ve had zero incidences across sports where fans have contracted the virus through attending an event,” he said. “So I think that those things will build confidence over time.”
Despite the long wait, Weber believes the fans are ready to return to normal. He told Bartiromo tickets for March events were sold out within hours of being put on sale.
“I think the consumers, the fans themselves are ready to come back,” Weber said. “This is not a situation where we’re seeing that we’re putting the opportunity out there and they’re not taking it.”