The Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks hosted their first home games with fans in nearly a year at Barclays Center and Madison Square Garden, respectively, Tuesday night, as coronavirus restrictions ease in New York.
- Despite the new variants and despite the slow vaccine rollout, cases have dropped enough for New York state to reopen sports arenas to fans. And the fans are coming out tonight to watch the Knicks play at Madison Square Garden-- the first time in nearly a year. The Nets will play in front of fans tonight at the Barclays Center. Eyewitness News reporter Josh Einiger live in downtown Brooklyn with details. Josh?
JOSH EINIGER: Well, Sade, first of all, let's not get too carried away here. Barclays Center fits about 20,000 people. They're expecting a couple hundred tonight. So a couple hours before tipoff, you'd expect this plaza in front of Barclays Center to be packed with fans. And there's almost no one here. But 200 is many more than zero. It is a big step forward after a really long year.
It's been months since opening day. But if anything, tonight's home game against the LA Kings is even more exciting for Nets players like James Harden.
JAMES HARDEN: Just to have some excitement, some extra energy in the crowd, it's going to be-- it's going to be exciting for, obviously, the entire team. So we can't wait.
- Tonight has been postponed.
JOSH EINIGER: For the first time since COVID fears shut down the whole league in midgame a year ago, the NBA will be allowing real fans in person. Here at Barclays Center, they'll admit just a few hundred fans at first with elaborate checks-- a required PCR test within 72 hours of game time, a rapid test at the door. And once inside, seating is widely spaced out, masks required.
If all goes well, the Nets plan to work their way up to the state's 10% occupancy cap by the All-Star break. That's about 1,800 fans-- potential business for a Flatbush Avenue starved for cash.
EVAN FRANCA: We're excited. We're excited to get any people in the stadium. Any action around here is just-- is going to be positive.
JOSH EINIGER: The Knicks have similar rules in place for their COVID opener tonight. But die-hard fans will do just about anything to get out of the house and into the Garden, like David Perlmutter, who attends tonight with his six-year-old son, hoping to make new memories, like in these pictures from last year.
DAVID PERLMUTTER: I was a little kid last night. I didn't sleep. I couldn't wait for today to show up, to go to the game tonight. It's going to be amazing. The safety protocols that they're taking-- you know, making everyone tested, temperature checks, social distancing-- all of that makes me-- everyone wearing a mask, of course-- makes me feel very comfortable and safe. I feel privileged to be able to attend. But it's going to be weird.
JOSH EINIGER: Definitely going to be weird at the Garden and here at Barclays Center, where the Nets are actually the only team in the league to be paying for those rapid tests. It's a number that amounts into the eight figures, they say-- rapid tests for every person who comes in to watch the game in person. It's mandatory, but the Nets are covering the cost.