MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Thousands of Minnesotans were back in the stands Monday to cheer on the Timberwolves and the Wild.
Both the Xcel Energy Center and Target Center can now hold up to 3,000 fans.READ MORE: Jayson Tatum's Career-High 53 Help Celtics Top Timberwolves, 145-136
Navares Ladd brought the loudness of several fans to help energize the atmosphere at the Wolves game. He kept up the cheering and the trash talk from start to finish.
“It was so much excitement,” Ladd said. “I’m completely ecstatic to be back out here.”
Other Wolves fans, like James Mobley, felt the difference of a mostly-empty arena.
“It was off. It didn’t feel right to me, but it felt good being back, you know, watching the professionals play,” Mobley said.
Fans haven’t enjoyed a game at the Target Center since last March, according to Bri Bauer, the Wolves’ vice president of communications and engagement.
“This is a huge day,” Bauer said. “We’re so excited. We’ve been working closely with the governor’s office for more than a year now and planning for if and when this day comes.”READ MORE: Schwartz, O'Reilly Each Score 2, Blues Beat Wild, 9-1
Fans must have their masks on when they’re in their seats, which are in pods of two to four and distanced. Food and beverages are ordered through an app to be picked up at a concession stand.
Jason Steidle is the senior executive chef for Levy Restaurants, which oversees concessions in the Target Center.
“Now we get to bring in our wonderful [employees],” Steidle said. “They’ve been waiting to come back to work and we’re very happy to have them back.”
Similar safety precautions are being taken across town at the Xcel Energy Center in St Paul, where the Wild also welcomed fans back Monday, including David Kostck.
“There’s so much health protocols going on and contactless entry,” Kostck said. “I feel safe coming back in here and supporting the team, so it’s good to be back in the building.
Gov. Tim Walz attended the Wolves game Monday, with plans to get to a Wild game soon.
“They’re professionals, they do a great job,” Walz said. “These things are based on some good science and health principles. You see the social distancing, the mask wearing, the things like that. I think I feel comfortable but cautious about it.”MORE NEWS: Twins Excited By Byron Buxton's Powerful Start
When asked if it’s possible he could decide to dial back again with fans, Walz said he hopes not. He feels the vaccine rollout is keeping up enough with spread of coronavirus variants.