On Sunday, after an Olympic break of more than a month, the Lynx will return to action against New York at Target Center. It will be the two teams and, the Lynx hope, a cast of many thousands.
Coming out of the break the team has lifted COVID-19 restrictions on fan attendance that should return Target Center to being one of the better home court advantages in the WNBA.
"We're moving people back to their original seat positions,'' said Carley Knox, Lynx president of business operations. "It will be a more intimate and awesome experience for the fans.''
Coronavirus-related restrictions had limited how many fans could come to Lynx games and where they could sit. As the season began, fans were limited to socially distant pods of two to four people, usually family or friends who agreed to be in a pod together. But nobody was allowed near the court. As the season went on, the pods were allowed to get closer with less social distancing, but still a good ways away from the court. The social distance requirement limited attendance to just over 2,000 per game. This will change Sunday.
Season ticket holders will be back in the seats they originally purchased. Fans will be sitting courtside, again. The Lynx are again selling group tickets as well as single-game tickets.
"We are back to normal,'' Knox said.
With one caveat: Fans attending games will be required to wear masks.
In constant contact with the WNBA, Knox said everything is subject to change; the rise of the delta variant of the virus is being watched very carefully by the league and its teams. But the plan now is to sell a ticket to anyone who wants to come to the game and wear a mask.
"There should be a significant uptick,'' Knox said of attendance. Knox said a number of season ticket holders who had deferred 2021 to get 2022 tickets have reconsidered and are now buying back in for the rest of this season. Knox expects strong group sales and a rise in single-game tickets.
Fans will be returning to see the league's hottest team. The Lynx (12-7) are in fourth place in the WNBA. But, after an 0-4 start to the season, they have won 12 of 15 games, including a seven-game winning streak into the Olympic break.
"We're excited for our fans,'' coach Cheryl Reeve said. "They've gone through a lot to continue to try to support us. Even with the COVID protocols we had one of the best environments in the league.''
It's been a long time. The 2020 WNBA season was played entirely in the league bubble in Bradenton, Fla., where no fans were allowed. Sunday's game will be the first game in nearly two years that fans will have relatively unfettered access.
The Lynx have traditionally been one of the best-drawing teams in the WNBA. In 2019, they were third in the league in average attendance at 9,069. They were second in attendance in both 2017 and 2018.
"We are excited about where the team is,'' Knox said. "We have awesome momentum heading into the second half [of the season].''