SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Beginning April 26, the San Jose Sharks will welcome fans back to the SAP Center, or, as it's known to fans, the "Tank." However, because of the ongoing pandemic, the game-day experience will be different.
Sharks fan, Tara Damon told ABC7 News, after hearing the news, "I messaged three of my really close friends and said, 'Guys, we get to go back!'"
Damon understands "going back" involves some big changes.
Sharks representatives explained everyone two years and older must provide proof of either completed vaccinations or a negative COVID-19 test.
If vaccinated, the final dose must be received at least two weeks prior to the day of the game.
A press release detailing the Sharks have partnered with Total Testing Solutions to provide a way for ticketed fans to receive a complimentary COVID-19 test, 48-72 hours prior to the game they plan to attend.
The release offered the following direction:
Fans MUST preregister for testing and book an appointment, which are available beginning on April 19.
Additionally, digital tickets will be sold in pods of two or four seats. Masks will muffle the normal game-day cheers as well.
Still, Damon said the changes are worth it.
"Just being able to take that step back inside a building with other people, with groups of people at a sporting event is like almost relieving," Damon added. "Like, it's finally heading towards the end of all this."
Another major change, people won't be able to eat or drink in their seats, or use cash to pay for any of those items.
The Sharks announced they will establish designated eating and drinking areas for all guests, in an effort to ensure a minimum of six feet of distance between tables. Fans can expect to find this area at SAP Center's North Club and Upper Mezzanine sections located near Sections 107 and 109.
In an effort to reduce interactions between people, all purchases have become a cashless experience.
The puck drops before fans in less than two weeks.
Sharks President Jonathan Becher said capacity limits allow about 500 fans inside the SAP Center at a time.
"We are starting on the first game, opening up to the most tenured season ticket holders and rolling through them through a seniority process," Becher said about ticket sales. "Before we're opening it to the general public."
The altered experience isn't impacting the excitement for Michael Boyd-Merritt. He's ready for the return of some fan favorites.
"The shark head dropping, and kind of that first intro song. Hearing the Metallica song playing," Boyd-Merritt described. "That first Sharks goal and hearing the goal song."
Special moments that will soon return, only more socially distanced.
Fans told ABC7 News they understand safety is paramount, especially during the ongoing pandemic.
"There's really a right way to do that, and it sounds like the Sharks are doing it the right way with the testing and limiting some things," Boyd-Merritt shared. "While it's different from the experience that we used to have, it's worth it just to get to the stands and see the team, and cheer them on again."
For more details on the return to the SAP Center, click here.
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