By Trang Do

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Wells Fargo Center announced the completion of millions of dollars in extensive health and safety improvements in advance of welcoming back fans sometime this year. It’s been almost a year since the Sixers and Flyers played a home game in front of a packed house, when the coronavirus brought their seasons to a halt on March 12, 2020.

“We’re going to come back as a team, as an industry, as a city, as a country and we’re going our part to take those steps,” Phil Laws, Wells Fargo Center general manager, said.

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Laws said a part of those steps was an $11 million renovation of the HVAC system — a project planned years before the pandemic, but that has become even more crucial in the age of COVID-19.

“All of the air you see around you in this bowl, we can actually replace it with fresh, outside air in under 30 minutes,” he said. “So it is absolutely top of its class in the arena industry.”

With this and other health and safety improvements, the International Well Building Institute (IWBI) awarded the center its WELL Health Safety Rating, making it the first venue in Pennsylvania to achieve that distinction. It’s a major step toward welcoming sports and music fans back to the arena.

“I’ve been on my couch cheering for those Sixers man, I would really like to go back if we get the opportunity to go back to the stadiums,” 76ers superfan Jahmane Croxton said. “It’ll be a real good thing. I think it’ll bring the momentum to the team.”

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Still, others said, they’re not quite ready.

”Not just yet,” Lawrence McKenzie of Southwest Philadelphia said. “It’s kind of hard, cause this virus is bad.”

Laws said fans can rest assured that the arena is implementing every protocol, including a dedicated disinfecting team and contactless ticketing and cashless concessions to ensure their safety when they’re ready to return.

“Sharing those moments with our fans is something that’s deeply missed,” he said. “Obviously, it impacts our business from a tremendous standpoint, but it’s also, this is what we do, we entertain people and without the people, we’re missing what we do.”

There is no clear timeline for when fans will be able to return to the Wells Fargo Center as spectators, but it’ll be up to city and state health officials to make that decision.

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