SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – On a night when you’d normally find crowds of people packed downtown celebrating a Sacramento Kings home opener and win, only a few fans and silence could be seen.

Downtown Commons outside the Golden 1 Center would typically be flooded with fans for the first home game of the season, but amid the pandemic, many said the silence was deafening.

A few stragglers braved the cold to peer in on the game through the glass doors and windows with fans not allowed inside, but some were more dedicated than others.

“If you’re a true Kings fan, you want to be as close as you can to the action,” Pam Russ said.

She and her friend, Linda Leiman, are Sacramento Kings super fans. On Saturday, they made their own front row seats to the fun, joined by service cats Patches and Fluff, as the Kings beat the Phoenix Suns 106-103 to improve to 2-0 on the season.

“Can’t go another season without the Kings,” Leiman said. “Sorry folks – we decided to camp outside the doors.”

The pair are known as the ‘Kings Cat Ladies’ and they don’t miss a game. The last time they were inside Golden 1 was back in March when thousands, including them, were forced to leave minutes after the game began – canceled in the name of COVID.

“That was just a shock that night,” Russ said.

Since then, COVID-19 cases in Sacramento surged and wreaked havoc on surrounding businesses.

“It’s tough, it’s very challenging,” said Oscar Vasquez, general manager of Polanco Cantina.

The restaurant sits right outside Golden 1, and Kings games typically bring big business. On Saturday, his restaurant sat empty as he recently had to lay off a majority of his staff due to the stay-at-home order.

“It’s eerie to see so much silence,” Vasquez said. “Just got to keep moving forward and helping each other out as best as possible.”

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The cantina is now only serving take out, and Vasquez is anxiously awaiting the day his team can serve fans again.

At other nearby businesses, sales have slumped and doors have closed. Outside of basketball, it’s a hard sight to see for Kings fans like Leiman and Russ, but their commitment still stands.

“We’re actually season ticket holders,” Leiman said. “This is so different.”

Both fans and businesses feel optimistic as the vaccine rolls out, and hope to get back to normal soon. But big events like Kings games may be one of the last bits of ‘normal’ to return.

Heather Janssen