New normal for sporting events: show you’re vaccinated; Armory in Albany holds first full-capacity event

Team Finals player Emoni Bates completes a layup against City Rock at the GymRat Challenge at the Albany Armory Saturday.

Team Finals player Emoni Bates completes a layup against City Rock at the GymRat Challenge at the Albany Armory Saturday.

Saturday was the first time Maureen Harris was able to witness her daughter Libby’s boyfriend play basketball in person during the GymRat Live games at the Washington Avenue Armory in Albany, the first major sporting event to take place in the Capital Region at full capacity. 

Visitors going to see the two games at the armory had to bring proof of vaccination — either their vaccine card or Excelsior Pass — or be accompanied by an adult if they were 16 or younger. 

Harris showed her pass, while her daughter brought her card. 

“I’m excited,” Maureen Harris said. 

Libby Harris said her boyfriend, Marcus Jackson, is playing for Albany City Rocks. 

“I got here at 10 a.m. for our tickets,” Maureen said. 

She said they watched Jackson play his high school season with Albany Academy for Boys virtually. 

“It’s nice to finally be able to go watch him in person,” Maureen Harris said. 

Libby said during her basketball season at the Academy of the Holy Names parents couldn’t even watch kids play. 

With more people getting vaccinated, those guidelines are changing. 

GymRat Live Executive Director John Kmack said people were thrilled to see the COVID guidelines had been relaxed. He said he had spoken to the state about allowing for larger crowds for the two bigger games being played instead of the original 250 capacity limit because the teams were used to playing in front of crowds of 5,000 in other states. If left at the original capacity limit, Kmack said “that would leave the public unable to see something historic.” 

Two of the top high school players in the nation – Emoni Bates and Jalen Duran – played for Team Final in its contest against the locally-based team.

So the state agreed to allow up to 2,500 fans at the armory and 250 people at the Capital Center. 

Kmack said people arrived eager to show security their vaccination cards and get into the game. 

While some fans arrived without masks for the games, many others had theirs on, including security. 

Tommy Dempsey Jr. went with his dad Tommy Dempsey to see his old high school friend Brett Rumple play point guard for City Rocks. It was an exciting day since Dempsey Jr. wasn’t able to watch him play at all this past year because of COVID. 

Tom and Justin Adach also spent the day watching the big games, thrilled to watch Bates and Duran perform. The final score was 77-66 with Team Final over Albany.

“I’m happy,” said Justin about cheering them on without a mask. 

Kmack said while he supports people’s right to decide on whether they want to get the vaccine or not, those who do get it have additional opportunities. 

“If you’re vaccinated you’re going to have access to more things,” he said.

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