Nets’ playoff ticket policy has benefits for vaccinated fans

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Nets CEO John Abbamondi wouldn’t say how many fans would be allowed in Barclays Center for Saturday’s playoff opener versus Boston. But he wasn’t coy about one thing: He wants to get as many of them vaccinated as possible.

The Nets want it badly enough that they’re not only giving both vaccines and COVID-19 testing right across the street from Barclays Center, but partnering on a mobile vaccination effort going into underserved Brooklyn neighborhoods. They’re even giving out free tickets via lottery to those willing to get vaccines.

“We recognize that we do have some unvaccinated fans, and we want as a customer-service issue frankly we want to enable them to come to the games, too, but they’re going to be limited. And let me just say we’re not neutral on the question of vaccines,” Abbamondi said. “We are in lockstep with the governor [Andrew Cuomo] on this, and we are trying to nudge people to get vaccinated.

Barclays Center
Barclays Center
Paul Martinka

“We’re supporting a mobile vaccination unit here in Brooklyn that’s going to some under-penetrated zip codes throughout the borough. We’ve launched a program, we’re going to be raffling off and giving away free tickets to folks who go out and get vaccinated in those zip codes. And we’re really trying to encourage our fans to get vaccinated, we’re trying to encourage fans who are already vaccinated to come out. So we don’t want to create too many unvaccinated sections, because we’re trying to in our own small way nudge people’s behavior.”

Brooklyn will host Game 1 of their Eastern Conference first-round playoff series against the Celtics on Saturday. After being limited to just 10 percent capacity in Sunday’s regular-season finale, Gov. Cuomo loosened limitations, and now the Nets are still trying to figure out how many fans they can safely put in the building.

Though Abbamondi said the Nets could fill all 17,732 seats with fully vaccinated fans, they intend to save a big chunk of the areas arena for unvaccinated fans, with those areas socially distanced and at just 25 percent capacity.

Fans will have to provide proof of either being fully vaccinated or a negative COVID-19 test to sit in the “vaccinated section.” The Knicks have said they’ll have 15,000 in the Garden versus Atlanta, and the Nets will likely have at least 10,000. Fans and employees still have to wear face masks in common areas, but the fans in the vaccinated sections can take off their masks in their seats. Children who are unvaccinated can sit with vaccinated adults. All concession stands will be open, with the intent of keeping lines down.

One hundred tickets will be up for grabs for every Brooklyn home game. The lottery is open to anybody who gets a vaccination at the pop-up site outside Barclays Center starting Saturday or any already vaccinated people who live in one of 33 neighborhoods designated by the city.

Mayor Bill de Blasio set up the task force on racial inclusion and equity. It targets neighborhoods that were hardest hit by the pandemic, have had economic challenges and have had low vaccine rates.

“We’ve deliberately kept our ticket prices I would say far below market value, because we are trying to make the building as accessible as possible for all of our vaccinated fans,” Abbamondi said. “We’re charging more for vaccinated sections. We want people to be vaccinated.”

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