Fans will soon be allowed at Pacers games — but the experience will be much different
The first game with fans will be Jan. 24 against the Raptors. Tickets go on sale Jan. 19.
Mobile tickets, pod seating and mandatory mask wearing will be the most significant changes fans will experience at upcoming Pacers home games. After months of planning, the organization has moved forward with its plan to open games at Bankers Life Fieldhouse to a limited number of fans.
Beginning Jan. 24 against the Raptors, approximately 1,000 tickets will be sold for the first two home games. It will be the first Pacers game with tickets sold to the general public since March 10, 2020 — a loss to the Celtics on the day before the NBA paused its season.
Tickets go on sale Jan. 19 for games scheduled from Jan. 24 through March 4, the final 10 home games for the first half of the schedule.
The Marion County Health Department approved 25 percent capacity for local sports teams, including the Colts and Butler basketball. The Colts first opened to 12,500 tickets per game and then reduced to 10,000. The capacity limits keep Butler to about 2,275 fans, but they’ve limited ticket sales to about 1,500 per game.
The Pacers are going the other way. They’re starting with 1,000 fans, in addition to the player and staff ticket allotment that has been allowed since the preseason. After the first two games, they will reassess their cautious restriction.
“There is nothing more important than the health and safety of our fans, players, and staff, and that is why we are taking a responsible ‘crawl-walk-run’ approach to bringing guests back to the Fieldhouse,” said Rick Fuson, PS&E President & COO. “We will enforce safety requirements, have made updates to the building and our operations, are regularly training and testing our staff, and will continue to communicate with the public so fans can support the team they love in the NBA’s best arena.”
Here’s what The Fieldhouse has looked like without fans.
Fans may purchase 2-4 tickets, what the team is calling pods, in the lower- and club- level. The balcony will remain closed off with a black curtain. Fans in the lower bowl area will be a minimum of 30-45 feet from the floor.
Season-ticket holders were given the option to roll over payments already made and receive a percentage boost, according to one longtime ticket holder. They were also told that late January was the target date and that they would have the option to attend games as part of the limited capacity.
The Pelicans are one of about a half-dozen NBA teams that currently allow fans at games. They had an official attendance of 750 in the Pacers’ overtime win in New Orleans on Monday. Veteran forward JaKarr Sampson noticed the crowd and said it felt different.
“You could tell the atmosphere was kind of different going there with the fans being there,” he said. “I can’t wait to get our fans back because we got some of the best fans in the NBA. I’m excited getting them guys back in the gym and people like T.J. McConnell, he’s always going to be fired up. But when the fans are there, I think he goes to a whole different level.”
It will be the first public appearance for new head coach Nate Bjorkgren, and the first time for fans to see phase one of renovations made to the arena.
“Our team is incredibly excited to have fans back in the seats, and we all appreciate the immense work done to prepare,” Kevin Pritchard, Pacers president of basketball operations, said in a statement. “We have some of the most passionate fans in the league, and we look forward to having them back at the Fieldhouse.”
The Pacers are 6-2 overall, 4-2 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse and will play three more home games before fans are welcomed back. A small portion of fans have been unable to watch games on Fox Sports Indiana due to the ongoing dispute with major streaming options like Hulu and YouTube TV.
How things are different
All guests must complete an online screening form before arrival and be prepared to show confirmation upon arrival.
All tickets are digital.
All transactions — for tickets, food, drinks and team store — must be done by card. The building is now a cashless experience. There are kiosks set up to put cash on a card.
Fans will go through magnetometers and then use x-ray machines, which also means less contract. There will be express lines for fans without bags (which cannot exceed 10” x 10” x 2”).
Masks are required.
Elevators are limited to five people.
Bathroom sinks are now equipped with handsfree sinks, soak and towel dispensers. There’s now Purell hand sanitizer everywhere you go, more than 300 dispensers placed throughout the building.
The Fieldhouse upgraded its HVAC system for enhanced air flow and is now using MERV-13 air filters, which more effectively captures and filters airborne viruses.
Consumption of food and drinks is only allowed at designated seats and not in the concourses, bars or open areas.
All food is individually packaged and no refills are available.
Most are excited about the announcement, but some still have legitimate reservations.
After the news, I put out a poll on Twitter asking followers about their comfort level attending a home game this season.
A) Great news, sign me up.
B) I'll pass for now.
C) Not comfortable doing so.
A few hours later, more than 60 percent of respondents shared that they were on board and chose option A. Just 16 percent said there weren’t comfortable attending a game.