TAMPA, Fla. — Amalie Arena is slowly reopening to allow fans inside to watch Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Raptors games.
The arena will do so in a phased-approach only inviting a limited number of family and friends.
“Gosh, we played so long without them it’s going to be weird having them,” Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said.
The Lightning played their first three weeks of the season in empty arenas, including six home games at Amalie Arena.
“I know tonight is just going to be a small sampling,” Cooper said. “I anticipate that it will be more and more as the games move on.”
Vinik Sports Group announced on January 9, four days before the season opener, its decision to shut down the arena to fans.
Now, the plan is for that ‘small sampling’ to continue through March 2 for both Lightning and Raptors home games while COVID-19 cases continue to be monitored.
“Just to play in front of the fans again, especially with what has happened to us in the last few months, the success we’ve had and able to share it with them it will be needed change for sure,” Cooper said.
The goal for Amalie Arena is to allow about 3,8000 fans into the arena by mid-March, but there is no set date for that.
The Lightning host the Florida Panthers Monday at 7 p.m.