Attending A Sporting Event During Covid

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Matthew Merrifield, Sports Writer

Sports are not complete without fans. Since the pandemic started last year that statement has held true. Every major sport in America has had to go on without fans, and it hasn’t been the same. There is an energy that fans bring to games that can’t be recreated. As a fan that has attended many games, watching sports in person is better in almost every way than watching on tv (that includes $7 hot dogs).

While on spring break I attended both a Miami Marlins and Florida Panthers game. Both stadiums were limited to 25% capacity, but keep in mind both teams have the worst attendance in their leagues. Both stadiums had similar protocols in place, but were different in their enforcement of these rules.

loanDepot Park (Miami Marlins):

As you approach loanDepot park, the surrounding restaurants and stores have very few restrictions in place. Many people were not wearing masks despite the businesses having signs up saying to wear a mask, and Miami currently having a mask mandate. Just outside the stadium, there are signs put up with the basic procedures that have been put into place for everyone’s safety. There were signs saying that facial coverings were required inside the stadium at all times (unless eating or drinking), but the signs did not specify that only certain masks were allowed. Lots of people were wearing gaiters and bandannas up to the stadium but were denied entry because the stadium did not allow those masks to be worn. While this is an acceptable rule, security did not have approved masks on hand to give to people that needed them. Once inside the stadium, you noticed some of the other rules put in place to keep people safe. For example, the team store had a security guard at the entrance keeping track of the number of people inside, so there wasn’t crowding. There wasn’t any limitation on food as each concession stand was open and even the small individual vendors were still open. The only difference was that QR codes were placed in front of every seat that would allow you to order your food ahead of time and not have to spend time in line with other people. While in a seat, it was easy to notice the blockading of seats that weren’t available so everyone could remain socially distanced. Ushers would walk up and down the aisles throughout the game to make sure everyone was wearing their mask, but otherwise watching the game from your seat seemed no different than pre-Covid.

BB&T Center (Florida Panthers):

The Panthers game had many similar Covid precautions put in place, but because the BB&T Center is indoors and more confined than loanDepot park, there were extra measures. Mask procedures were the same as the Marlins game, they had an approved list of masks, while gaiters and bandannas were not allowed. The team store was also keeping track of capacity to maintain social distancing. Since the concourse was smaller, there were more ushers and security personnel making sure people were distanced. However, the attendance was low that night, even for a max of 25% capacity. A major difference that I took note of was that the two mascots of the Panthers: Stanley C. the panther and Viktor E. the rat were not walking around and interacting with fans. Obviously, this would be a huge liability and an easy way to spread Covid, so that made sense. Instead, the Panthers installed a platform in a corner of the lower bowl and called it Stanley’s Corner, where they had given him a chair, signs, and other trinkets to use and interact with the crowd during the game. My only complaint about the Panthers game was that artificial sound was pumped through the speakers during play to make up for the lack of fans, which you may not notice on tv, but it’s really distracting when watching in person. Luckily, midway through the game, they seemed to stop using it.

Final Verdict:

After attending both of these games even with the precautions put in place it felt good to be back at a sporting event. To those that missed it as much or more than I did, if you get an opportunity to attend a sporting event, don’t let the regulations worry you. Watching the games was a wave of normalcy that I didn’t know would ever come back.