SEATTLE — The Sounders FC welcomed back fans for their 4-0 home opener victory against the Minnesota United Friday evening.
Businesses near Lumen Field are also feeling the excitement.
"Everyone is excited around here. It feels a little more normal today," said Farshid Varamini of Gantry Public House on Occidental Avenue.
"I do use that term 'normal' loosely," Varamini added.
By definition, normal is the usual, typical or routine. In Seattle's Pioneer Square and SODO neighborhoods, normal was pre-pandemic, when thousands of sports fans would fill up stadiums and the watering holes nearby.
"How many bars and restaurants have shut down? Too many to count," said Tony Ursino of Sluggers on 1st Avenue.
But Friday night, fans are back in the neighborhood.
The Sounders announced earlier this month they would host about 7,000 fans at Lumen Field for the first five home matches.
Under Phase 3 of Washington’s COVID-19 reopening plan, outdoor sporting events are allowed to have up to 9,000 fans or 25% of venue capacity, whichever is fewer.
As part of the Lumen Field reopening plan, there will be COVID-19-specific procedures in place. Fans must wear masks, except when eating or drinking, and will be seated in ticket groups. Those pods, which can include up to six tickets, will be seated 6 feet apart. No paper tickets will be printed, and fans will scan their tickets from a mobile device at self-service ticket scanners. Lumen Field’s clear bag policy still stands.
As fans fill the stadium and the businesses nearby, even in a socially distanced capacity, it will be the biggest crowd in the neighborhood since March 7, 2020.
"The last Sounders game on March 7th just before we were shut down, just a couple weeks of operation," said Varamini.
Varamini said he hopes the math adds up Friday night, as does Sluggers down the street.
"It's going to be a big night, it's going to be a big night," said Ursino.
It may not be what was once normal, but after so many long months, Friday night's game will be baby steps on a path to it.