'Incredibly exciting': Kitchener Rangers, Guelph Storm welcome Ont.'s increased capacity limits

The Ontario government is easing capacity limits for settings where proof of vaccination is required, meaning sports venues in Waterloo Region could soon welcome even more fans back to the stands.

The province's chief medical officer of health Dr. Kieran Moore announced the change on Friday, with the new rules coming into effect Saturday.

Capacity limits at indoor settings inducing event spaces, concerts, theatres and sporting events, will increase to 50 per cent or 10,000 people, whichever is less.

For the Kitchener Rangers, that means The Aud could start allowing 3,500 people into the stands.

Currently, the Rangers are limited to 1,000 patrons at their home games. That's exactly how many people packed into the Aud on Friday night to watch the Rangers take on Mississauga in pre-season action.

“It’s incredibly exciting. We’ve waited a long time as an organization, our fans, our players,” said Joe Birch, chief operating officer and governor of Kitchener Rangers.

He said management will discuss when to expand that number, adding allowing more fans into the arena will help the team pay off some long-term debt.

“It will be significant to get us back to operating to where we were pre-pandemic," Birch said.

He also said expanding fan capacity is one of the last real big pieces to getting back to normal.

The Guelph Storm is also determining when to increase seating capacity, which currently sits at 1,000 but could go up to about 2,500.

"We've been one of the businesses in Ontario, in Canada and globally that's made a lot of sacrifices over the last 18 to 19 months. So to be able to start to have fans in is a big part of our business getting back up on its feet," said Matt Newby, vice president of business operations for the Guelph Storm.

Also included in the newly announced easement on capacity limits, outdoor event venues where patrons stand can increase to 75 per cent capacity or 15,000 people.

For outdoor venues where patrons are seated, the limit expands to 75 per cent or 30,000 people.