RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The Carolina Hurricanes welcomed fans back into the PNC Arena on Thursday for the first time in more than a year.
The last time ‘Canes fans were at the arena for a home game was on Feb. 28, 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Oh, it is awesome, we’ve been so excited counting down until today,” said longtime ‘Canes season ticket holder, Sue Bohnsack, who made a Caniac sign for the momentous occasion.
State regulations limit capacity in arenas to 15 percent. For PNC Arena, that’s roughly 2,800 people.
“If we had been able to come back at a higher number than that, we were really on the fence about it,” said Linda Piper, who attended the game. “But we feel 15 percent is a safe number.”
PNC Arena and Carolina Hurricanes General Manager Don Waddell told CBS 17 Thursday’s game against Detroit was sold out.
“It’s exciting, but we’re also anxious to make sure everything goes smoothly. We’ve been working on this thing for nine months and we put together a task force and I think we’re really prepared, we overstaffed the building,” said Waddell of the precautions they’re taking to prevent the spread of the virus.
While the energy at the games is the same, the experience is much different. From here on out, tickets are mobile-only.
“We banded 13,000 some seats just so people can only sit in the seats that we’ve assigned them in their pods, and our pods range from one to six people,” Waddell added.
There is no tailgating in the parking lot and fans are required to complete a health screening on their phones before they enter the arena. Concessions are cashless, the food and drink menu is limited, and everything is prepackaged.
“You only can do it once like this, we gotta make sure we do it right. And I think as we go along, proving that we’re doing it right, we’re gonna be able to add more percentage to the total overall capacity,” said Waddell.
When it comes to future events at PNC Arena, Waddell said most big concerts have been rebooked for 2022. But if capacity limits increase allowing 4,000-5,000 people in the arena, it’s possible there could be smaller concerts later this year.