SEATTLE - Seattle Seahawks fans are days away from cheering on the home team at Lumen Field for the first time since the 2019 season. This Blue Friday is unlike any other due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but fans said they are excited to celebrate the home opener together in some capacity.
"It’s this weekend! Home opener, it’s this weekend!" said Yolanda Morgan, president of the Sea Hawkers Booster Club, the team’s official fan club. "The fans are so ready for this, it’s not even funny. I mean, we’re just bursting at the seams for this whole thing to actually happen."
Morgan said it has been an emotional challenge for some fans being away from club members and the stadium for so long. Throughout the pandemic, the club has hosted virtual chats and visiting its senior members to feel some sense of community.
"Making sure that everybody is fine and they’re doing okay, that they’re not in any kind of trouble or in a depressed state. Because that’s what last year did to many of us. We were all isolated, we couldn’t necessarily see or touch anybody," said Morgan.
Tom Norwalk, president and CEO of Visit Seattle, said this Blue Friday is big boost in morale for the city and region, but it’s definitely not the same as before.
"All of that momentum is great and you can just sense a feeling of a little more excitement and optimism despite the enormous challenge we’ve got going forward on the pandemic," said Norwalk. "Typically in a year we’d see a flood of Canadians coming down for home games—that’s an issue, borders are an issue. And so all of those things...it won’t be a normal start to the season, but we’re hoping that it gets better as we go."
Norwalk said tourism in Seattle is still slow due to COVID-19 Delta variant cases spreading nationwide, which is causing regulations and safety guidelines to constantly change in Washington.
"Uncertainty of planning—what’s open, what’s closed, are cultural institutions open, is it timed entry—all of those things are just huge impacts on travel. And if you’re not sure, if you don’t know what to do then you may just say we’re going to stay home, we’re going to stay somewhere else," said Norwalk.
Before the pandemic, Norwalk said it wasn’t uncommon to see Seattle’s hotel occupancy during football season at 95 percent.
"For us now running 60 percent occupancy over the course of a week or into a weekend is better than it was, but it’s certainly far off from where we typically would be this time of year," said Norwalk.
Despite low numbers, there is a lot of momentum building in the city and region. Not only are people excited about returning to Lumen Field to watch the Seahawks, the announcement of MLB All-Star Game at T-Mobile Park in 2023 is a game changer.
"Ironically as we look forward 2023 will really be the start of what could be truer recovery for our region. It’s going to take that long. So, to have the Hawks at home, to have those kinds of announcements happening is big for the city," said Norwalk.
Big news Seahawks fans are focused on now is returning to Lumen Field and making it the loudest stadium in all of football once again.
"It’s going to be a reunion and a homecoming. And I know that’s how everybody else feels about it. There will be tears because of the loses we’ve had from last year, but there will be joy and happiness," said Morgan.
Despite vaccine mandates in place at the stadium, Morgan said some senior citizen club members are cautious about attending a game. The club will host its annual initiative called 12 Days of Goodness. She said part of the initiative includes club members and Seahawks legends bringing football and community to those senior citizens so they don’t feel left out this season.
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