This past week, the Institute released their long-awaited fan safety protocols for the 2020 football season. With stadium capacity limited to 11,000 and fans prohibited from interacting with others, this season will look a lot different than previous ones. The release follows many months of speculation, much of which centered on whether a season was going to actually happen at all. In the end, the ACC, SEC and Big 12 decided to press on with a modified schedule, while the Big 10 and PAC-12 postponed their seasons altogether.
Upon leaving their car, fans will be asked to wear masks while on the Tech campus. While this is requested everywhere on campus property, it will only be required on stadium property. This provision allows fans to go unmasked when tailgating before or after the game. In an effort to prevent the potential contraction and spread of the novel coronavirus at tailgating events, sanitation stations have been added throughout the area around the campus.
There have been multiple standards put into place for masks this year. In order to be allowed, they must contain two layers of breathable material, cover the face and mouth, and be self-supported against the face. Stadium entrances will be more widely distributed, with assigned entrances being noted on tickets. Many security officers have been replaced with metal detectors, a move designed to make things as contactless as possible throughout the process. Fans will be allowed to carry one gallon bags “Ziploc” style bags into the stadium, along with a water bottle and hand sanitizer.
Upon entering Bobby Dodd, fans will be directed to their assigned seats. Seating will be socially distanced and separated into clusters based on the accounts that purchase tickets. The idea is that groups that come to the game together will sit together, at least six feet away from everyone else.
Fans are prohibited from leaving their zones and are only allowed to leave for food and restrooms, with the act of eating being the only reason for which a fan will be allowed to take off their mask. Wait lines at ticket counters have been set up to maintain social distancing. In an effort to decrease the length of the lines, alcohol will now be sold in the stands, a move that has never been seen before at Bobby Dodd.
Water fountains, widely considered to be one of the worst mechanisms for spreading germs, will remain open. However, stadium crews will cleanse them regularly throughout the game. Payment systems have been upgraded to accommodate touchless methods such as Apple Pay and are meant to keep fans from touching objects as much as possible.
Ticket demand has been put into a hierarchical system, with season ticket holders getting first access to the 11,000 available tickets. Paper tickets have been switched out for mobile tickets, with fans asked to use barcodes on their phones to gain entry to the stadium. In an effort to conserve money, season ticket holders who cannot attend have been asked to consider their payments for tickets as donations to the athletic department. All proceeds that are not refunded will be put into The Swarm Fund, whose goal is to help make Tech’s athletic financials more comparable to big-name schools such as Clemson and Alabama. Leftover tickets will fall to Stinger Mobile Pass holders. After that, any tickets that are still not taken up will be released to the general public.
This setup means that students might end up comprising a smaller portion of the fans at the game than in previous years, as many depend on the free tickets that were typically released the week of the game for entry.
While once-in-a-lifetime changes seem to be occurring weekly across the college football landscape, the announcement of regulatory procedures for at-home games alleviates many questions. The release of the regulations comes with a bit of controversy, with many in the student community questioning the practicality of hosting a crowd of this size amidst a pandemic that is currently circulating around the campus.
Whatever the outcome, the decision to host in-person games will put Tech among the first institutions in the world to host live sporting events for thousands of people since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.