SAN JOSE, Calif. - Fans of the San Jose Earthquakes soccer team will be allowed back in the stands for the first time in more than a year on Saturday. No proof of vaccination or negative coronavirus test is needed to get in.
For the team’s home opener at Paypal Park, capacity will be limited to 3,600 fans.
"We are so excited for this game on Saturday, it’s been a long year," said San Jose Earthquakes Chief Operating Officer Jared Shawlee.
At the home of the San Jose Earthquakes, a new field is installed and signage. The stadium is now Paypal Park after a new naming rights deal.
On a rainy day, March 7, 2020 was the last game with fans inside.
Some fans were allowed to watch games from their cars on a big screen during the pandemic, which was different.
"To have the energy back at Paypal Park, it’s going to be an incredible experience," said Shawlee.
Capacity will be capped at 20 percent to adhere to social distancing protocols. Masks are required and fans will be seated in pods of up to six people.
Ticketing is contactless done on mobile phones.
One thing fans won’t have to worry about is showing proof of vaccination.
"State guidance doesn’t require you have negative Covid test or vaccination in the orange tier so we are following all the state and county health official guidance," said Shawlee.
The venue is outdoors with an open air concourse.
"We are definitely missing the MLS season," said Kyle Taylor, manager at Smoking Pig BBQ.
Across the street, the Smoking Pig BBQ restaurant is staffing up and hiring. Before the pandemic, it was packed with fans pre-gaming.
"We are anxious to see what the limited capacity brings us," said Taylor.
"I am so excited," said Nanci Klein, City of San Jose Director of Economic Development. "The Earthquakes are such a great amenity for the city."
Klein said the city’s landscape is not the same without live sports.
The stadium is re-opening as the San Jose Sharks are set to welcome back fans to the SAP Center on Monday.
"To come back and experience the game together is a source of hope," said Klein.
"I’m thrilled about it," said John Pujols of San Jose. "Finally we can go back to the park."
Pujols said it’s been way too long. He can’t wait to root for his team in person.
"People need to go out and feel normal again so I feel like this will be a step forward to feel normal," said Pujols.
Saturday’s matchup against FC Dallas is sold out to season ticket holders. The game starts at 12:30 p.m.
Azenith Smith is a reporter for KTVU. Email Azenith at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter and Instagram @AzenithKTVU or Facebook or ktvu.com.