SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – The Utah Jazz wrapped up their regular-season home schedule on Wednesday night, meaning the next time the team takes the floor at Vivint Arena, they’ll be playing in the NBA Playoffs.
As the first team in the league to clinch a playoff berth, and currently, in a neck-and-neck race with the Phoenix Suns for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, this postseason promises to be an exciting one as the Jazz continue to seek that elusive first championship.
The question is, once the playoffs begin, how many fans will be allowed in the arena?
On May 1, the Jazz increased the seating capacity at the downtown arena to 6,700 fans, with a mask requirement and other COVID-19 protocols in place. Courtside seating also became available for the first time all year to fans with proof of full vaccination and a negative rapid test.
Vivint Arena, with a full capacity of 18,306, has seen a couple of increases to capacity during the 2020-21 campaign, beginning the season letting in just 1,500 fans before bumping up the attendance to 3,902 in February.
It has been a while since the building has been rocking at full strength. The Jazz’s last home game with full attendance was a 101-92 loss to the Toronto Raptors on March 9, 2020. The team’s fateful postponed road game against the Thunder in Oklahoma City a couple of days later, on March 11, essentially kicked off the shutdown caused by the pandemic.
Still, hopes are high that the Jazz could delight bigger and bigger local crowds as both the pandemic appears to be in the waning stages and the team’s schedule progresses deeper into the summer months.
Utah Governor Spencer J. Cox, a noted Jazz superfan, mentioned attending Jazz games as one thing that could motivate folks to get the vaccine and thus, return to normal life in his discussion with President Joe Biden earlier this week.
Some NBA franchises who have qualified for this year’s playoffs have already made announcements on attendance increases for the postseason. The Milwaukee Bucks announced that they would expand to 50% capacity at their playoff home games at Fiserv Forum, which would be around 9,000 fans. The Atlanta Hawks are planning on letting in 7,625 fans at the State Farm Arena for their home playoff games.
When reached for comment on their postseason attendance plans, the Jazz responded to ABC4 by saying those were still to be determined. Since the team won’t be playing its first playoff game until after the NBA’s play-in tournament, which could mean the Jazz won’t be back at Vivint Arena until May 22 or 23, there is still some time to see how things with Utah’s vaccination efforts play out. The team added that an announcement on attendance and ticket availability will be made once plans are finalized.
Despite Wednesday’s 105-98 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, the Jazz are still very much in the driver’s seat for the top seed in the Western Conference, holding a 1.5 game lead over Phoenix. Should the Jazz win their final regular-season road tests against Oklahoma City and Sacramento, they will finish the year with the NBA’s best record. Utah last finished with the top mark in the league in another shortened season, the 1998-99 campaign, when the Jazz tied with the San Antonio Spurs, the eventual champions that year, with a 37-13 record.
Should the Jazz continue their strong play and find themselves in the climax of the playoffs, the national landscape could be drastically more open by that time. President Biden has identified July 4 as a day he is hopeful that Americans can “mark independence” from COVID-19.
“If we do this together, by July 4 there is a good chance you, your family and friends can get together in your backyard or in your neighborhood and have a cookout or a barbecue and celebrate Independence Day,” Biden said in a nationwide address on March 12.
The NBA Finals are scheduled to tip-off on July 8. Should the vaccination efforts continue to go as planned and if the Jazz make their way through the postseason, there could be a possibility that Utahns could celebrate a run at a title this summer, with an increase in fans cheering the Jazz on in person.