It has been 13 long months since Lakers fans last packed Staples Center. It was a wrenching loss to a much different Nets team. A lot has happened since then, but none of it has played out in front of fans.
The drought finally ends Thursday when the Lakers host the rival Boston Celtics. Fans can’t wait to go back. Players can’t wait to hear them cheering.
But the lucky 2,000 people who score tickets, limited due to COVID-19 restrictions, will have to adapt to major changes implemented as safety precautions.
The county allows 25% capacity at indoor venues, but Staples Center is starting with a smaller group and will monitor progress before deciding whether to expand capacity.
Event staff want fans to know things will be a little different than attending a Dodgers game, for example, where fans can take in clear bags and remove their masks to eat at their seats.
Staples president Lee Zeidman says the adjustments are key to making everyone safe at an indoor event during a pandemic.
“It’s exciting as I walk the building to see everybody back,” Zeidman said. “And it’s going to be even more exciting to see the fans coming back to the building knowing that, first and foremost, we’ve made it safe and secure.”
If safety measures go smoothly and spread of COVID-19 continues to fall in Southern California, the arena could be back at full capacity on June 15. The NBA and NHL will be in the playoffs by that time, and in August, Staples Center has a pair of Justin Bieber concerts and will be welcoming back the Sparks.
For now, comprehensive safety precautions are firmly in place. Here’s a guide for how to attend an event at Staples Center:
All tickets will be digital and can be accessed through the AXS app or Lakers app starting for Thursday’s game. Tickets will be sold in groups called “households” to emphasize it’s safest to be near people who live in your own home. Households will be seated six feet from others. The energy on-court will probably be a little different, as courtside seats will be placed 12 feet back to ensure the safety of unmasked players and masked fans.
“You’ll be able to get close, but maybe not as close as before,” said Danielle Snyder, Staples Center senior vice president of guest services and security.
So, yes, Jack Nicholson can resume watching games relatively close to the floor. Maybe we’ll catch a glimpse of Drake when the Lakers host the Raptors on May 2.
Staples Center is requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to enter the arena. This doesn’t mean you can go get a quick buzzer-beater shot. Fans must be fully vaccinated and wait two weeks after their final dose to be admitted. And be sure to bring your photo ID as well so security can make sure you are you.
To be as contactless as possible and avoid crowds at entrances, there is a no-bag policy for the first time at Staples Center. That means not even small, clear bags, as the NFL, and recently Dodger Stadium, have allowed. Everything you want to bring to the game must fit in your pockets.
Sorry, ladies, I know this one’s hard for us. On top of trying to fit everything into our pockets, this isn’t the place to show off a new Birkin bag. Perhaps some fashion innovation featuring a lot of pockets might be helpful. Staples Center will be providing complimentary feminine products in each of its restrooms.
Might I recommend this chic look for your next date night at the game, ladies? https://t.co/37QzrWbWg8 pic.twitter.com/XcW3ap1O45
There will be exceptions for medical bags and diaper bags, which will be screened in an X-ray machine at the entrances. The bags cannot be larger than 14-by-14-by-6 inches.
If you absolutely can’t fit everything in your pockets, there will be a limited number of lockers available outside the entrance.
Parking passes at the main parking lots will be digital and can be purchased at axs.com. Again, Staples Center is going as contactless as possible.
Masks will be required for all fans ages 2 and up. Masks must cover both the nose and mouth and remain on while fans are inside the arena. Bandanas and neck gaiters are not permitted. A face shield cannot be worn in place of a mask that covers your nose and mouth. And staff will be reminding fans to keep their masks on at all times.
Instead of getting your ticket scanned and going through security at the door of Staples Center, the footprint of the arena has expanded into Chick Hearn Court between Georgia and Figueroa Streets and the plaza in LA Live next to Microsoft Theater. Fans will now enter the space through the North entrance on Chick Hearn (at the intersection of Georgia Street) or at the plaza entrance in front of the building that houses the NOVO, Yard House and Starbucks.
Since you’ll be packing light, you might not have room for hand sanitizer. But not to worry because there will be touchless hand sanitizer dispensers throughout the arena. Also, Staples Center has added lots of new sanitization measures, including UV lighting on all elevator buttons and escalator rails.
Social distancing will be observed throughout the arena. There will be placards throughout the venue to help you stay six feet apart from others.
Staples Center is going cashless this year. All concessions and merchandise must be paid for with a debit or credit card, Apple Pay, Google Pay or Samsung Pay. If you have no idea what any of those are, no-fee cash-to-card kiosks are located throughout the arena to convert your cash into a physical or digital card that can be used for purchases.
All concessions will be cashless and orders will be placed from your seat online using a provided QR code. Fans will be alerted when their order is ready via text message and they can then go to the concourse to pick it up. An important new rule to note is that you won’t be allowed back to your seats to eat. There will be designated areas in the concourse or outside for you to eat and drink.
All restrooms will have limited capacity and have been equipped with touchless soap and towel dispensers.
Staples Center is now a nonsmoking venue, including the outdoor area where smoking previously was allowed.
Staples Center has enhanced its ventilation system in response to the pandemic. Energetico states its All in One HVAC system, which has been adopted by Staples Center, eliminates 99.9% of airborne toxins, including those four to five times smaller than COVID-19.
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Victoria Hernandez is a writer who worked at the Los Angeles Times from 2017 to 2021. She began her journey in journalism as a sports reporter, writing for the Sun-Sentinel and Rivals.com, and has since expanded to covering music and fashion. Hernandez hails from Denver, is a graduate of The U and her life role model is 50 Cent.
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