By Laura Haefeli

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – The Sacramento Kings home opener is in the books after a year and a half away and an empty arena with no fans.

Last season, fans watched the Kings from outside the stadium, during a pandemic with no end in sight.

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“That was really hard to see. I felt sorry for the team. I know they play off the energy from the fans,” said Carol Cook.

Fake fans kept seats warm inside the Golden 1 Center.

“I’m tired of the cutouts in the seats. To have real people is great,” said Jim Cook.

Rules were in place for the Kings home opener, masks were required and fans had to produce vaccine cards or a negative covid test but it was all worth it to see the game. It was an exciting start to the season not just for the players and fans but for downtown businesses.

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“I think it’s great to see the energy the foot traffic,” said saif Amanda Ryan who works at a wine bar outside the arena and is ready to get back to business even though she says they’re short-handed.

“People are experiencing being under-staffed so we’re all in search of quality staff members,” said Ryan who says it’s stressful to be short staffed with the season in full swing.

“You know I think only time will tell,” he said.

Hopeful Kings fans say this is their year.

Joshua Woods brought his son Marshall to see his favorite team.

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“The experiences going through two years of covid not being able to bring my son to an event with people in it it’s an amazing feeling and I’m sure he’ll remember it forever,” said Joshua.