Doubled-vaxxed fans pack the stands at Halifax soccer match
The Halifax Wanderers soccer game Wednesday night was the franchise's first with full capacity -- and with COVID-19 precautions in place.
Staff and fans of the Halifax Wanderers spent the day getting ready for the quarter-final championship match up against Montreal.
"Very, very excited," says fan James Covey, "this is the first time that we've ever played a major league soccer side, so it's a big new step for the club."
But that's not the only reason the game is significant.
Wednesday night marks the first time the franchise has been given the green light from Public Health to operate a full capacity in the past 18 months.
That means more than 6,000 fans in the stands, with all required to show proof vaccination for entry.
Covey says he hasn't heard anyone complain about the requirement.
"Everything I've heard from my fellow supporters have been (that they) love to have that extra security when they show up here," he says.
"And really, we implemented a double vaccination policy a few games ago," says franchise president Derek Martin.
That was with the venue at half capacity, and Martin says those trials went smoothly.
"Public health agreed that we were a safe place we've hosted well over 20,000 fans this year without any incident," Martin adds.
For anyone nervous about the idea of having that many people here, epidemiologist Kevin Wilson says while nothing is without risk in a pandemic, the risk here, remains low.
"Everyone in attendance is ostensibly going to be not just vaccinated, but fully vaccinated," says Wilson, "and it's outdoors, which drastically in itself reduces the risk of transmission."
The HFX Wanderers had about 50 workers manning the gates to keep lines flowing.
"So there's really three steps to coming in, the first step will be a person who will do a vaccine check," says the organization's vice-president of operations, Matt Fagen, "you will show your proof of vaccination there."
That happened at all 14 entry gates, with those gates opening 90 minutes before match time, to get people in early.
Then, once tickets were taken and bags security checked as usual, it's game on.
"Everyone knows the real experience here is all about a packed wanderers ground," says Covey.
It's an experience bound to feel very much like the past -- that many hope marks a better future, as the province aims for phase five of reopening, Oct. 4.