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Ball Arena sells out for the first time since name change

Under its new name, the Denver Nuggets played in their first sold-out arena since the change.

DENVER — It has been so long since the Denver Nuggets played in front of a sellout home crowd, and now they are in their newly named home.

The last time the Nuggets sold every seat, the arena was called the Pepsi Center, but now we welcome its new name, the Ball arena.

Friday night's Game 3 of the NBA Playoff Conference Semifinals against the Phoenix Suns is the first game the Nuggets have permission to have 100% capacity since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

"They submitted a thoughtful mitigation plan to include face coverings, and actually, spent a great deal of money on increasing ventilation, so I think we're going to be alright," said Bob McDonald, Executive Director of the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment.

The city and state needed to give the OK for Ball Arena to be at full capacity.

The last time it was a full arena, Post Malone was the headliner on March 12, 2020. On Friday, Coach Mike Malone will lead the Nuggets onto the floor.

While Nuggets fans will be staring at Nikola Jokic's stat line, McDonald has other numbers in mind.

"We look at positivity rate, we look at case rate, we look at hospital admissions," said McDonald. "Specific to the decision about allowing increased capacity, we're going to take a look at what have we seen with the capacity that we've been at? Have we seen cases or outbreaks stemming from Ball Arena? Have we had people call us? What have we been able to find out through contact tracing and case investigation efforts? And we have not seen anything. Cases continue to drop."

Denver's two-week positivity rate is at 1.5%. Health experts want that number less than 5%.

"For people who are vaccinated, you really have very, very little to be worried about," said McDonald. "For people who are not vaccinated, I strongly encourage that they stay away from these types of events because they are still susceptible to getting COVID-19." 

Positivity rate also comes from the number of people being tested, which has steadily dropped in the last month.

"A lot of people are setting their sights on vaccine right now, not looking to get tested," said McDonald. "Now, we're really just seeing people who are very symptomatic, and for that reason positivity rate can go up, and that can be a little misleading in terms of how indicative it is or how much community spread there is because we're testing people that likely have it if they're symptomatic."

State-run testing sites will remain, even as fewer people get tested for COVID-19.

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