What to know about UConn’s plans for home basketball games: Masks, full capacity and amenities

UConn men’s and women’s basketball games in 2021-22 can be played at packed arenas in Storrs and Hartford.

Barring any change in state or university protocol before the Huskies open the season next month, full capacity crowds will be allowed for home games at both Gampel Pavilion and the XL Center.

All fans, regardless of vaccination status, will be required to wear masks when not actively eating or drinking. This aligns with the university’s current indoor policy on campus.

Otherwise, the crowd and atmosphere will resemble something pre-COVID, with the standard placing and procedure for concessions. Capacity is 10,167 at Gampel and 16,294 at the XL.

“We’re operating and planning to be at full capacity and have all the appropriate amenities attached,” an athletic department spokesperson said. “We’re hoping to have an experience reminiscent of the 2019-20 season, except people are going to be wearing masks.”

Dan Hurley’s men open the season Nov. 9 against Central Connecticut at Gampel. Geno Auriemma’s women open against Arkansas Nov. 14 at the XL.

Fans were banned from games last season due to the pandemic. As they return for 2021-22, UConn is optimistic in having even larger crowds than in recent years.

Season tickets sales through last week, UConn said, are approximately as follows: 3,500 for the men at Gampel and 6,000 at the XL; 3,700 for the women at Gampel and 4,700 at the XL.

The men’s XL figure is the highest since 2011-12 and the men’s Gampel figure is the highest since 2015-16.

An adjusted model for purchasing season tickets, based on donations to acquire and retain seats, went into effect prior to the 2019-20 season, when season ticket sales were 2,634 for the men at Gampel, 4,895 for the men at XL, 4,102 for the women at Gampel, 5,264 for the women at XL.

Season tickets can be purchased right up until the season begins. Individual game tickets are expected to go on sale sometime in the next two to three weeks, though no date has been set.

The men’s team returned to the NCAA Tournament last season and the women’s team, expected to be the nation’s top-ranked team this season, made the Final Four for the 13th tournament in a row.

UConn’s First Night celebration, a student-only event, will take place Oct. 15. It will be preceded by a block party on Jim Calhoun Way beginning at 5 p.m. and featuring a D.J., food trucks and a video game truck.

The building opens at 6 p.m. with free admission to students and open seating for the 7 p.m. celebration, which includes player introductions with lights and smoke, band and drumline performances, video replays of the men’s and women’s dual national championships in 2004 and 2014, and scrimmages.

The event will be televised on CW20, a Fox 61 affiliate. A free, live stream option, perhaps on Facebook or uconnhuskies.com, will be announced.

“The decision to allow admission to UConn students only was made out of an abundance of caution and is not an indication of similar plans being made for the 2021-22 season,” athletic director David Benedict said when plans were announced Sept. 24. “Seeing our fans return to our home venues during the fall has been encouraging and I look forward to welcoming UConn Nation back to Gampel Pavilion and the XL Center in the weeks ahead. I am excited for the students to create an electric atmosphere on October 15, and I know our basketball teams are looking forward to experiencing a raucous Gampel Pavilion.”

The women’s first game at Gampel is Dec. 5 against Notre Dame. The men’s first game in Hartford is Nov. 13 against Coppin State.

UConn through the fall seasons and winter preseasons, has continued to follow COVID protocols long in place for unvaccinated players and staff. Unvaccinated athletes are tested weekly, monitored regularly and must quarantine for 10-14 days following close contact.

But about 95 percent of the athletic population of about 650, and 98 percent of the total Storrs residential student population of about 10,800, is fully or partially vaccinated. There have been just 23 positive COVID tests campus-wide since students return and, as of Wednesday, there were just five active cases.

Vaccinated athletes are not tested for COVID unless they exhibit symptoms. If deemed a close contact, those athletes are not required to quarantine but are made to wear a mask for 14 days (or produce a negative test in days 3-5).

mike.anthony@hearstmediact.com; @ManthonyHearst