COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The Columbus Blue Jackets have made their case to welcome back fans to Nationwide Arena. Now that request is under consideration by the Columbus Public Health Department.
The Jackets confirmed they made that request Wednesday. They are seeking a fan variance from the state to allow 10% of Nationwide Arena’s hockey capacity to attend games.
The listed hockey capacity at the arena is 18,500, so the team is requesting approximately 1,800 fans to gain access for future home games.
That’s on pace with the state variance granted to the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs have welcomed 10% of fan capacity since late December, and Thursday, Governor Mike DeWine’s office permitted a slight increase to 14% of capacity.
The Jackets are hoping to get their attendance up to 20% by mid-March. CPH is taking the proposal under consideration, but it’s far from a guarantee fans will be back in the building immediately.
Columbus Health Commissioner Dr. Mysheika Roberts says many variables will be considered including fan behavior and trends in Covid-19 testing.
“It’s hard to remember to take the mask off, have a sip of beer or Coke or whatever, and then as soon as you’re done with that put the mask back on . . . so I worry about that,” Dr. Roberts told NBC4’s Matt Barnes in an interview Thursday.
“Right now, it looks good in terms of our cases and our numbers but what happens in five or six weeks . . . we just have to make sure that whether it’s the Blue Jackets or OSU, [they] can scale back their spectators to accommodate whatever disease activity we’re having in the community,” she said.
NHL teams are currently installing revised Covid-19 protocols after several outbreaks throughout the league.
Three of the scheduled NHL games for Thursday night have been postponed due to COVID-19 test results.