How Many Fans Could Attend a Capitals Game With Social Distancing Rules In Place?

When the NHL re-fires the engines for the 2019-2020 season sometime later this summer, it will be inside of empty arenas. However, at some point down the road, fans will be allowed back, in some form or fashion, we just don’t have a timeline. In advance of that day when fans can once again occupy Capital One Arena, we decided to begin taking a look at what the return of the fans might look like. Our first piece takes a look at a potential phase 1, which might allow arena attendance with social distancing guidelines in place.

Hockey analyst John Shannon reported this week that the NHL and teams have done social distancing models for people in seats. Most arenas, based on people being six feet apart (two seats) in every direction, would only be able to host 2,000-2,500 fans at a game.”

We did a quick analysis to determine the number of fans that could be seated at a Capitals game at Capital One Arena. We calculated that a section of the arena with 143 seats could accommodate 24 fans, providing six feet of separation in all directions. That’s approximately 16% capacity for the allotment of seats. A straight extrapolation for 18,505 fans (Capital One Arena capacity) would yield 2,950 fans.

According to Elliotte Friedman, another team indicated it modelled with families of four, who social-distanced together at home, and would then be allowed to be together at a game. Attendance could go up to 4,000.

The same team indicated they were told that you’d need a one-mile lineup to get every 900 fans into the building. That equates to 4.4 miles for 4,000 fans. If you have six to eight entry points, that’s approximately a half mile line for each entrance. However, that’s if everyone lined up for entry at the same time. It’s assumed staged entry of some kind would be implemented, spanning 1-2 hours before the game.

Exit from the Arena would also require significant planning to maintain social distancing criteria. How each section empties into stairways and moves through the concourse would take tremendous planning and coordination, a plan that would need to be relayed to attending fans well in advance of the game.

Other issues such as concessions and bathroom usage would also require specific planning, but would likely be less of a concern.

By Jon Sorensen

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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2 Responses to How Many Fans Could Attend a Capitals Game With Social Distancing Rules In Place?

  1. Mike Pool says:

    the 6 foot rule is no magic bullet to prevent virus spread. otoh, having a bunch of people screaming and shouting together in an enclosed space for 2-3 hours is an excellent way to spread the virus, 6 feet apart or not:

  2. Diane Doyle says:

    So what would be the priority for determining which fans get to come back? Would they have the fans back on a more or less rotating basis, with the longest tenured fans getting first dibs at games? Would fans have to prioritize which games they want to attend, indicates which games they would not get to attend? I figure they would send materials to all fans, with the longest tenured fans getting the best chance of getting their most desired games. But no fan would get to attend more than 1/4 of the games, assuming that 4000 is the max size. In any case, fans would get tickets for each game, based on the number of tickets in the account.

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