As the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins prepare to welcome their first fans of the season on Friday, they received another piece of good news to begin the week.
On Monday, Gov. Tom Wolf announced plans for relaxed crowd restrictions at Pennsylvania businesses and facilities starting April 4. The maximum occupancy for indoor events will increase to 25%, regardless of venue size, amid the coronavirus pandemic.
While the team doesn’t have any concrete plans yet, that should mean more fans at home games in a matter of weeks. Attendance is limited to only 15% through the end of March.
“We’re obviously very excited about (the announcement),” said Penguins President and CEO Jeff Barrett. “We should have a better idea in the next two to three days (of what it means).”
Barrett said the team will likely be able to allow more fans, but not at the 25% maximum because of social distancing guidelines. Mask wearing will still be required.
The Wilkes-Barre Twp. facility has a maximum capacity of roughly 10,000 for concerts and other large events.
The Penguins use an application through Ticketmaster that constructs seating models compliant with COVID-19 protocols. Barrett said the team will also be in contact with Mohegan Sun Arena General Manager Will Beekman in the planning process.
Any attendance increase is significant for American Hockey League teams because they depend heavily on gate revenue. However, some have already decided to err on the safe side as the pandemic continues in their respective states.
For example, the Hershey Bears told ABC27 in Harrisburg on Monday they will not allow more fans into Giant Center because of limitations created by social distancing protocols.
The Rochester Americans have already announced they will complete their season without fans.
Monday’s announcement came only hours before the team puts tickets for its three March games on sale to the general public at 10 a.m. today. Seating is available in “pods” of seats — primarily in sets of two or four — that are safely spaced from other groups in attendance.
All tickets will be distributed virtually. Contact the team’s front office directly at 570-208-PENS or visit wbspenguins.com for more information.
Tyler Piccotti has covered the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins for Times-Shamrock newspapers since 2017. In the Penguins Insider blog, he provides a look at NEPA’s only professional hockey team, sharing analysis and insights that go beyond the game sheet. A 2015 graduate of Syracuse University, he also has written for Bleacher Report, The Post-Standard and Lacrosse Magazine. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-821-2000; @CVPiccotti