NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A big weekend for New York City’s sports teams started Friday as several stadiums and arenas expand capacity for fully vaccinated fans.
The new seating policy went into effect at Yankee Stadium for Friday night’s game against the Chicago White Sox, CBS2’s Andrea Grymes reported.READ MORE: Change In Stadium Seating Policies Leaves Yankees Fan In The Lurch: ‘It’s So Last Minute, I Can’t Meet Their Requirements’
The Yankees ended up beating the White Sox, but the real winners were baseball fans in New York.
Many fans were catching a game in person for the first time since before the pandemic.
“Very excited to go back and actually go to a normal sporting event, you know?” Yankees fan Kaden Jimenez, of Salt Lake City, said.
Dan Hollywood, of Union, New Jersey, came with his brother, a White Sox fan.
“So glad to be here. It was like Christmas to me,” he told CBS2’s Nick Caloway. “Just like the old days. Last year was no games at all. Here I am in my second game. So, happy. Feels back to normal.”
Yankees fans Joe Luliano and Gianna Pollara were psyched to be back at a game for the first time in two years.
“It’s freedom. It feels good,” Luliano said.
Their trip to the Bronx came as the Yankees unveil fully vaccinated seating sections at full capacity. No more social distancing, but fans must prove they are fully vaccinated.
“More and more people are getting vaccinated, so they should be treated as normal,” Luliano said.
People ages 16 and over who can prove their vaccination status will be allowed to sit in the sections. Unvaccinated minors ages 15 and under can also sit there, if accompanied by a fully vaccinated adult.
Vaccinated sections are all over the stadium. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and fans said it’s an encouraging sign of how far we’ve come.
Unvaccinated fans can attend, but have to sit in other sections.READ MORE: Yankee Stadium, Citi Field To Seat Fans In Vaccinated And Unvaccinated Sections, Offer Shots And Free Tickets
The plan did come with some headaches.
Frank Ferrigno, of Monroe, Connecticut, got his second dose a week ago — not long enough ago to get into the fully vaccinated section.
“And they won’t let us in our section, so now I’m running around in circles, and now I’ve got to swap my tickets over. So it’s a little frustrating,” he said.
The Nets play Saturday night at Barclays Center.
“It’s gonna be a lot more fans, a lot more exciting, a lot more noise and hopefully a home court advantage,” said Nets guard James Harden. “I’m excited. I know the fans are and the organization is, and can’t wait to get going.”
The Knicks announced their first two home games, starting Sunday at Madison Square Garden, are already sold out. Nearly 90% of ticket holders are fully vaccinated.
The Knicks expect 15,000 fans at each game – the largest indoor gatherings in New York State since the start of the pandemic.
The Islanders have fully vaccinated sections at Nassau Coliseum for their playoff games, too.
Back in the Bronx, many Yankees fans see the increased capacity as an encouraging sign of how far we’ve come.
“I was smart through the pandemic. I got vaccinated, and now it’s good to be able to see the rewards of that. Hopefully it’ll encourage other people to do the same so we can get back to normal and get back to the way things should be,” Jimenez said.
Friday night’s crowd was the biggest of the year at Yankee Stadium with more than 14,000 fans in the ballpark.
CBS2’s Nick Caloway contributed to this report.