The Abbotsford Centre will welcome fans back for a Bandits basketball game on July 14. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)

The Abbotsford Centre will welcome fans back for a Bandits basketball game on July 14. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)

Fans returning to Abbotsford Centre next week

Fraser Valley Bandits becoming first pro sports team in B.C. to host fans since pandemic

It’s been almost 500 days since fans have been on the sidelines and unable to be in the building for professional sports.

But that all changes next Wednesday (July 14) when the Abbotsford Centre becomes the first venue in British Columbia to host professional sports with fans since March 10, 2020 when the Fraser Valley Bandits host the Guelph Nighthawks.

The Vancouver Canucks hosted the New York Islanders back on March 10, 2020 and posted a 5-4 win. Then the COVID-19 pandemic began to ravage all aspects of society, including professional sports. The Canucks, B.C. Lions, Vancouver Whitecaps and Vancouver Canadians have not played a home game in front of fans since.

Abbotsford Centre’s last event with fans was a Brad Paisley concert on March 7, 2020. The following week the postponements and cancellations began pouring in.

RELATED: Abbotsford Centre aims to rise from the ashes of 2020

The Bandits have not played in front of fans since Aug. 15, 2019 – by next Wednesday that will be exactly 699 days between home games with fans.

The Canadian Elite Basketball League team also has home dates scheduled for July 25 and 27 (both vs. the Edmonton Stingers). Tickets are now available for all three games.

According to a Bandits press release, fans can sit in accordance with a seating configuration that has been designed in consultation with the local health authorities to ensure the comfort and safety of all patrons that enter the building. The venue will welcome up to 50 per cent of its regular capacity for Bandits games.

The 2019 configuration for the team saw approximately 7,000 attendance capacity, so there could be several thousand fans in the building if the demand is there. In 2019 the Bandits averaged nearly 1,900 fans per game.

“It is an honour to welcome fans back to our stands for the final three home games of our regular season. It has been an electric start to our campaign and we can’t wait to invite fans back to Abbotsford Centre for a riveting entertainment experience and to witness the culture that we are building here in the Fraser Valley,” stated Bandits vice president Dylan Kular.

The Bandits become the third team in the CEBL to announce that fans are permitted to return to stands. Edmonton welcomed fans for its July 2 contest against the Niagara River Lions and the Saskatchewan Rattlers will host the Stingers on July 12 with fans permitted to attend.

Fans attending games at Abbotsford Centre will be able to sanitize throughout the game thanks to hand sanitizer stations that have been distributed throughout the building. In addition, contactless ticket scanning has been incorporated for all fans entering the building.

For more information on the team, visit thebandits.ca.

RELATED: Fraser Valley Bandits: Reflecting on year one

abbotsfordbasketballCoronavirusFraser ValleySports