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Pacers fans share Fieldhouse frustrations from home opener

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The home opener for the Indiana Pacers at Gainbridge Fieldhouse saw a huge turnout, with a sold-out crowd, and it seemed like it’d been a while since crowds so big were at the downtown venue on a regular basis.

Construction on Delaware and Pennsylvania streets funneled game-bound traffic down to two lanes, creating backups. 

When fans got to the gate they found safety and security protocols that caught some off guard. 

Although the combination of construction, both on the building and on the streets, along with COVID-19 protocols have slowed down the crowds getting into the building, the Pacers organization and fans are working their way through the process.

Barb Somes couldn’t have been happier making her way into the Pacers game on Monday night. She arrived well ahead of the crowd just to make sure she was in her seat for tip-off. On opening night on Saturday, she was still in line when the game started.

“It was tremendously hard because the line was all the way back there, way out to the street, and it was just crammed backed and everyone was so anxious to get in because it was opening night but we all had to wait in line,” Somes said.

People who have not been to the former Bankers Life Fieldhouse in a while found some things have changed. For one, the parking garage to the north is gone, taking with it access to the building from a skyway bridge. 

Scott Boltman is a season ticket holder and, like many people that attended the home opener Saturday night, came early Monday night to beat the crowd.    

“It was pretty bad. The lines were all the way, snaked all the way around. I actually walked around the building to come in this (entrance off Delaware). It was just as bad with people in the street and whatnot,” Boltman said.

With the renovation of the Fieldhouse underway, some amenities in the lobby have been temporarily removed. The box office is a series of tables.

Also, the Pacers are following health protocols from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Marion County Public Health Department. The Fieldhouse is asking people regardless of vaccination status to wear a mask in the building. Fans seating within 15 feet of the court were asked to prove vaccination status, according to Danny Lopez, Pacers vice president of communications.

“There are some additional protocols that the NBA has put into place — vaccination, proof of vaccination or a test — so we have testing sites set up and we have been contacting those fans directly to ensure they understand the protocols coming through,” Lopez said.

Also new, fans cannot bring in a purse any larger than a small clutch. News 8 on Monday night saw more than one person going back to their cars with purses in hand.

Another change: Tare no longer a thin strip of paper. Lopez said, “Make sure people understand that all tickets are now digital on your mobile phone, so when you come make sure your contrast is up, make sure your ticket is out on your phone and you are ready to scan it so we don’t have any congestion in the lines.”