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How evolving Covid-19 guidelines could affect Sounders attendance

Even if King County moves Phase 2, in-person attendance is not in jeopardy.

SOCCER: APR 16 MLS - Minnesota United FC at Seattle Sounders FC Photo by Jeff Halstead/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

UPDATE: Q13 was able to find out a bit more about the plan to allow vaccinated sections. The Sounders have so far said it’s “too early to comment” but a quick look at the guidelines makes it seem likely that a mass rollout of this plan would likely need to wait until the next round of ticket sales, which will start with the June 23 match against Real Salt Lake.

Essentially, the guidelines call for vaccinated sections to have their own entrances, exits and concourses. To do that without displacing people who already bought tickets to the next three home games, the Sounders’ only option is probably opening up the third deck.

Once they do implement the new rules, however, the Sounders could potentially expand capacity to as much as 22,000 from the current cap of about 7,000.

Although Covid-19 numbers remains stubbornly high in King County — raising the prospect that we could backslide into the more restrictive Phase 2 of the reopening process — recent comments by Gov. Jay Inslee suggest seating capacity for the Seattle Sounders is more likely to expand than contract in the near future.

Even if King County is moved into Phase 2, the state has already granted a waiver for professional outdoor sporting events that would allow them to maintain current capacity:

“Professional sporting activities, higher education and college sporting activities, major junior hockey, and part-time professional sporting activities without players associations or unions, may utilize Phase 3 Spectator Events guidance in Phase 2 if they operate under an approved league or conference plan.”

Beyond that, Inslee also noted that new guidelines will soon be released that outline how teams can essentially create “all-vaccinated sections” that allow for fans. Inslee announced the plans in the hope of getting more people to sign up for vaccines, which are now becoming very easy to get. Those new guidelines are expected to go into effect in mid-May and will impact everything from cruises to high school graduations to sporting events.

“It’s a great thing that vaccines can save your life, from having long-term symptoms, can save your family’s life, that you can be a responsible member of our community,” he said. “But we’ll also be increasing things that the vaccine will give you access to, things you otherwise wouldn’t be able to enjoy.

“If you want to be with a group of people at the Mariners game, you’ll be able to do that, but if you’re not vaccinated you’ll not be able to do that.”

Theoretically, this could impact Sounders home games on May 16, 23 and 29. The Sounders have already sold about 7,000 seats for each of those games so adding vaccinated sections might be easier said than done, unless they decided to open the upper deck. If the Sounders were to do something more expansive, it seems more likely that they try it starting with the June 23 match against Real Salt Lake — the first home match in June.

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