Big changes come for Dallas Mavericks fans headed to the American Airlines Center Monday night.
COVID-19 protocols such as vaccine and testing requirements will be relaxed starting with the game against the Denver Nuggets.
"You no longer have to show proof of vaccination or have a negative COVID test within 48 hours. We are relaxing those rules for anyone outside of the 15-foot range. So, if you are around the players' bench or around the players within that 15-feet area, you still have the protocols. You still have the health check and all of that but for most everybody else, which is most people in the arena, you just show up. You still have to wear a mask. So anyone above age 2 has to wear a mask," said Mavericks CEO Cynt Marshall.
The decline in the average number of COVID-19 cases prompted team executives to re-evaluate protocols that had been in place since the start of the season.
Everything else such as sanitization, sanitizing stations, cashless transactions, mobile ticketing, plexiglass partitions at concession stands and vaccinated AAC staff all stay in place.
"All of the electrostatic sanitizing, the disinfecting activities are truly at the highest standards. And we just haven't talked about it because it's just what we know people expect," Marshall said.
Also starting tonight, kids five to 11 can get the COVID-19 shot at vaccination stations at the Jack Daniels Old No. 7 Club. MD Labs will administer either Pfizer or Moderna vaccines for those seeking first, second or booster shots.
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And at tonight's game, the Mavericks will introduce seating dedicated to fans who are immunocompromised.
"We're excited about that. We've created a safe space. Because, people, they don't have a choice. They got cancer. They've got an immune-compromised system. We want them to be able to enjoy our games, too," said Marshall who as a cancer survivor is among those with an immunocompromised system.
"He (proprietor Mark Cuban) was actually the first one who reminded me when COVID first broke out, reminded me that I had a compromised immune system. And he said, 'You need to be careful.' And, I said, 'Why? You have a compromised immune system. Remember you had chemotherapy?' And, I'm like, 'Whoa! Yes, I can't forget that.' And, so I know it's been a big focus of his and I appreciate that," Marshall said. "And, so we just said we need to take care of the people who still wanna come out and are concerned. And some of them have called us and so, I personally walked the arena with some folks, and we said, okay, let's identify some great sections. And so, we're gonna start out with the one suite on Monday, and then we have a couple of hundred seats that if we need to expand to accommodate those folks, we will."
While attendance to see the 8-4 Mavs has been good this season, Marshall says " it hasn't been great. I think we had one game where it was totally packed but the attendance has been down just a little bit. Again, we've had a full house. It's loud. The people are rowdy, proud and loud in there but we haven't had every seat filled for every game which is what we're used to."
The Mavericks have distributed all tickets, so every home game has been a sellout but some fans have chosen not to attend for different reasons. Marshall understands but she wants fans to know they are safe in the 19,200-seat arena.
"We're trying to cover it all. we're trying to do our part as a community leader, as a trusted venue. we're just trying to do our part to keep everybody safe, and to keep the trend going where the case numbers, COVID case numbers are going down and the vaccine numbers are going up. So we're just trying to do our part. that's what people expect. That's what my boss expects. So we're doing it," she said.
Cuban, meanwhile, is making headlines with his announcement to The Dallas Morning News of a less than 50% chance the team will stay at AAC when the lease expires in 2031.
"From the time I joined the Mavs which was 3 1/2 years ago, he made it real clear that he had some big expectations about how he wanted to serve the fans even more and some big dreams about what he wanted for the arena. The parking situation is something that he continues to look at. He does not like it all if he thinks the fans are inconvenienced in any way. And so, he wants to improve on the parking situation and he has a lot of things that he wants to do, and it's all focused on our fans and our players. So I'm excited, whatever he decides to do," Marshall said. "He will let us know at exactly the right time. I know, based on what I read, that he is moving further and further in that direction. So, we'll just see what happens."
Cuban told The News it would take five to six years to build a new facility. So, a decision isn't that far off.