Phoenix Suns will welcome fans on Sunday for first time this season

Zion Williamson isn't playing before sellout home crowds at Smoothie King Center, but he is appreciative of the fans who do show up amid COVID-19 pandemic.

"It's been great," the New Orleans Pelicans phenom forward said. "Running out there and just seeing fans. Maybe it's not a stadium full, but just seeing people in the stands, it's a refreshing feeling. I'm glad we're one of those teams that allow fans."      

The Phoenix Suns will soon be one of those teams as the franchise announced Tuesday up to 1,500 ticketed fans can attend games at the $230-million renovated Phoenix Suns Arena starting Monday against Cleveland.

"Even though it's 1,500 fans, you come to these arenas that just have 1,500 or 2,000 fans, it's different," Suns All-Star guard Devin Booker said. "It's a good game. It's a fun game. I'm looking forward to it. I know my family and friends are also. We're working our way back."   

Suns point guard Jevon Carter has missed the home crowd.

"That type of stuff do get me going," he said.

Now Carter and the Suns will have that chance to see home fans for the first time since March 8 of last season when they upset Milwaukee.

"It'll be great," Suns coach Monty Williams said. "That's the one thing that everybody has missed is the fans in the building. It's just not the same."

The Phoenix Suns will welcome back fans for Sunday's game against the Boston Celtics. It will be the first time they have allowed fans since last March. (Photo: Rick Scuteri, USA TODAY Sports)

With social distancing being of high importance, Williams won't be able to see those familiar faces who sat close to bench before the pandemic, but having fans in the stands again will be a welcomed sight.

"They bring a tradition, they bring the juice," Williams said. "They bring their support and our players, that's one of the reasons you play. Obviously we get paid, but you get to play on the highest level in front of fans like we have in Phoenix. To get our fans back in the gym is going to be a really cool thing for our guys. Even if it was 25 fans, I think our guys would really enjoy having people cheer for them."   

The Suns offered complimentary tickets to healthcare workers for Sunday's noon game against Boston as part of a special invite package.

Ticket prices will be released later this week, Suns officials informed The Arizona Republic as season ticket holders are being contacted by team sales reps.

In addition, suites will be available for purchase at 25% capacity for each ticketed game after Sunday as the Suns have eight scheduled home games through the remainder of the first half of the 72-game regular season following Sunday's game against Boston.

"It's exciting," Suns guard E'Twaun Moore said. "Anytime you have fans who can cheer you on, it brings a little bit more energy to the game. Makes the game a little bit more fun. That's pretty cool." 

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Fans must wear masks to enter the arena and wear them at all times unless eating and drinking in ticketed seats.

"With an exciting new era beginning on the court and a practically new building to play in, we’re thrilled to welcome fans back to Phoenix Suns Arena," said Phoenix Suns president and CEO Jason Rowley in a news release. "Our staff has worked tirelessly with the NBA and health officials to ensure proper protocols are in place to keep everyone safe.”

Teams like New Orleans, Atlanta, Utah and Indiana have been having fans at their home games.

The Pelicans started this season with a capacity of approximately 4%, or 750 fans, with no seats within 30 feet of the court.

Atlanta Hawks owner Tony Ressler welcomes fans from the big screen for the Hawks' home-opener against the Detroit Pistons in December. (Photo: The Associated Press)

A limited number of requested tickets for New Orleans players and teams were also approved. Williams and Moore hope their families can attend Phoenix's home games.

"There's still a level of distancing that you have to account for and do," Williams said. "So I'm not quite sure how that's going to work out, but if your families can come, that's the deal right there. We get to do what we love in front of our families, our kids and people that supported us." 

Good opportunity for relatives to get out the house.

"I'm pretty sure they get tired being at home bored," Moore said with a smile.

The Pelicans are now allowing 1,440 fans. Williams is hopeful the Suns are able to increase their attendance numbers as the season progresses.

"We can't wait to see those faces and see the numbers grow," Williams said. "That's going to be a great sign that our country is turning the corner."

Arenas are still pumping in crowd noise even with fans in attendance, but the home team still notice their supporters in the stands.

The fan limit in Phoenix is in accordance with guidelines provided by the Center for Disease Control, the NBA and Arizona Department of Health Services along with Suns working with "medical experts to ensure fans have a fun and safe experience."

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