Orlando Magic announce policies for fans at Amway Center for 2021 season

The Amway Center will welcome fans beginning with the Orlando Magic's season opener. Mandatory Credit: Mary Holt-USA TODAY Sports
The Amway Center will welcome fans beginning with the Orlando Magic's season opener. Mandatory Credit: Mary Holt-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic will admit roughly 4,000 fans to games at the Amway Center to start this season, becoming one of five NBA teams with fans in attendance.

The Orlando Magic will welcome fans to the Amway Center for the 2021 season, beginning with the team’s regular-season opener Dec. 23 against the Miami Heat.

The team announced it will cap attendance at 25-percent of its capacity (roughly 4,000 fans), per NBA guidelines, and groups of no more than six of the same party will be seated together with at least six feet of distance to the next closest party in all directions. All fans will be required to wear masks throughout their time inside the stadium.

"“The most important thing and priority for us as an organization going into the season is the health and safety of our fans, our players, our coaches and our staff,” Magic CEO Alex Martins said in a media teleconference Monday. “Thus the reason for all these protocols and the many protocols we are following from the NBA. Our intention is to adjust as needed as the season goes on and as the pandemic brings us any new news. We will adjust as we go along the way.”"

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

Only family and friends of Magic staff and personnel will be allowed inside the Amway Center for Thursday and Saturday’s preseason games against the Charlotte Hornets. Capacity will also be limited to about 2,000 fans for the team’s first five home games as the team works out its protocols and processes for admitting fans.

Alex Martins said all the guidelines were made in consultation with AdventHealth, with the Florida Department of Health and other local officials and in accordance with CDC guidelines. The Magic will now be one of five teams in the NBA to admit fans to home games at least to start the 2021 season.

Fans will have to fill out a symptom-check survey before entering the arena and no bags will be allowed — unless it is a medical or parent bag. Again, fans will have to wear masks when they are in the arena.

Martins said the team will also have a task force throughout the arena trying to enforce mask-wearing and social distance with protocols for asking repeat offenders to leave if they do not observe the mask and social distancing rules.

Any fans who seat within 30 feet of the court will also get coronavirus testing provided by the team. No fans will be seated within 15 feet of the court and the areas directly behind the bench will be tarped off.

Additionally, the arena is enhancing its cleaning measures — including adding a UV light to the underside of escalators so that handrails are cleaned twice with each pass through. All dehumidification and air units in the building also have been equipped with UV lighting to decontaminate any bacteria.

The team is increasing the amount of hand sanitizing stations throughout the arena and putting up plexiglass screens at all point of sale counters or areas where fans might interact with others. Additionally, food service in the arena will be limited to individually wrapped meals and utensils.

Martins provided full details of the procedures for fans, including how the team will try to prevent crowding and maintain social distancing as fans enter and exit the arena in a teleconference Monday.

The Magic are certainly taking advantage of permissive restrictions in Florida. Florida was one of the first states to open up to sports once the pandemic began and opened up to fans quickly. Fans attended games all season at the Bounce House for UCF Knights games and at Exploria Stadium for Orlando City games. Fans have also been attending basketball games at Addition Financial Arena at UCF, marking the first indoor sporting event with fans in the area.

The protocols and procedures for fans are certainly much more detailed with the NBA placing requirements on teams on top of state and local guidance. The league has learned a lot of lessons from the bubble and is trying to apply them to all aspects of this season.

"“It’s a great challenge, there is no doubt about it,” Martins said Monday. “There is nothing in any of our careers that prepared us for this pandemic. What has prepared us is the success of the NBA bubble and the learning that came from that situation. This is definitely different. We are introducing fans to the mix and clearly, our teams are traveling and going to other cities and staying in hotels. It is going to be harder in my opinion than the bubble was. I do believe the success and experience in the bubble have allowed our teams to develop these very detailed protocols to be safe.”"

It is certainly a question whether the Magic should allow fans in their building.

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Martins said the team surveyed its season ticket holders and fans and more than 50-percent said they would like to attend games. So the team set about creating and crafting policies to try to make it as safe as possible.

Martins said he believes the team will be providing a safe environment — perhaps even safer than going to a restaurant — for fans to watch games. But certainly, there will be trial and error and there are always concerns with any type of large gathering during a pandemic.

Those who are not comfortable attending games can defer their season tickets to next year at no cost.

The team will make sure fans do not cross paths with media or any team personnel — media will be sitting in their own section and still conducting all availabilities via teleconference even with their ability to attend games in person.

The Magic are doing all they can it seems to try to keep everyone safe while still having fans in attendance. There is no way to make it 100-percent safe though.

"“We do believe we will do this in the safest way possible,” Martins said Monday. “But it is dependent upon the virus and where it goes from where we are today. Hopefully, as the vaccine is starting to be distributed over the next couple of months, it will be safer and safer to be out in public and in crowds. In the meantime, we believe everything we are doing here will keep our fans safe and will allow them to have a safe experience when they choose to come to our games.”"

Martins added the team will have detailed reporting to the NBA on a daily basis to continue having fans. But whether fans will be continued to allow to go to games or the possibility they could expand attendance will depend on how the course of the virus and how fans follow these strict protocols.

But it will certainly be a wait-and-see process for the team and the league. That is going to be the case with the entire season as much as it will be having fans in the stadium.

January will be the Orlando Magic's most challenging month. dark. Next

Only time will tell if the league can follow the Magic’s lead or if this experiment from the Magic will be successful.