By Antonio Harvey | Observer Staff Writer

DOWNTOWN – Sacramento Kings fans will have their long-awaited shot at seeing them play in person at Golden 1 Center after April 15.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced last week that indoor sports venues can welcome back fans in limited numbers beginning then.

Sacramento County Public Health will mandate the installment of sections for people who have been vaccinated. Fans in those areas do not have to subscribe to social distancing, but are mandated to wear face coverings.

The new rules are based on California’s four-tier system, which regulates activities in the state’s 58 counties.  The purple tier, the most restrictive, bans indoor concerts, sporting events, and theater productions.

In a statement, the team expressed excitement about the governor’s announcement and that it looks forward to “safely welcoming fans back to the arena in the near future.” No plans or details for how tickets will be distributed or may be made available were given. The Kings’ first home game after the restriction on fan attendance lifts is April 20 vs. Minnesota.

According to the state’s public health department, the red tier lets venues of up to 1,500 people operate at 10% and or up to 25% if all guests provide evidence of vaccination or a negative result of a test taken within 72 hours. 

Golden 1 Center can allow 1,501 people or more to view NBA games at 20% capacity of the red tier. Proof of vaccination or a negative test will be required. Local media already have to be screened through a survey before covering games at G1C. Only 20%-25% of the local media are currently covering games in the facility, as required by the NBA.

It has been more than a year since fans were permitted in the downtown entertainment facility after the National Basketball Association (NBA) suspended play in March 2020 in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The NBA abruptly suspended its season March 11, 2020, after a player tested positive for coronavirus. Thousands of fans were forced to exit Golden 1 Center as the league canceled the Sacramento Kings’ matchup against the New Orleans Pelicans hours later.

Earlier that evening, the NBA announced that Utah Jazz All-Star center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus. The Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder cancelled their game in Oklahoma just before tipoff, a couple of hours before the Kings were to play their first nationally televised game of the season on ESPN.

The game at G1C was cancelled when it was revealed that one of the referees officiating the game between the Kings and the Pelicans had worked the game in Utah between the Jazz and Toronto Raptors on March 9, 2020. The Kings and 21 other teams resumed play in a COVID-protected “bubble” in Orlando, Florida, in August. 

The 2020-21 season began in November, but with a 72-game schedule instead of the typical 82.

The Sacramento River Cats Triple-A baseball team is allowing limited fans at Sutter Health Park in West Sacramento. Yolo County recently slipped into the orange tier, which allows for 20% capacity.

The state expects to eliminate the four-tier system requirement by June 15 as it plans to restart the economy in full.

“We can now begin planning for our lives post-pandemic,” Gov. Newsom said earlier this week. “We’ll be getting rid of the (four-tier) blueprint as you know it today.”