The gameday experience for the upcoming season in the SEC is beginning to come into focus. Monday, the conference released its revised 10-game schedule, and today, the SEC has revealed its guidelines for fan health and safety.
When it comes to the number of fans allowed into stadiums when the season begins on September 26th, individual programs will follow state and local orders. In Mississippi, a current executive order from Governor Tate Reeves allows for stadiums to operate at 25% capacity, but that could change soon.
During Monday’s press briefing, the governor said that, after conversations with university leaders and state health officials, they are close to finalizing a plan for stadium capacity.
The SEC will require face masks for all fans as they move throughout the stadium and at any time when social distancing is not possible. Stadium workers must wear a mask at all times.
Tailgating decisions will be made by each institution in accordance with state and local guidelines.
Both Ole Miss and Mississippi State have previously announced a shift to digital ticketing in an effort to limit physical contact.
The remainder of the SEC guidelines outline the conference’s effort to ensure social distancing throughout the stadiums (entry points, concessions, restrooms, & more) within its footprint, including Vaught-Hemingway Stadium & Davis Wade Stadium.
The full set of guidelines from the SEC, developed by the conference’s Return to Activity and Medical Guidance Task Force, can be read below.
- Institutions shall determine the number of guests permitted to attend in accordance with applicable state and local guidelines, policies and/or regulations. In the absence of state and/or local guidelines, policies and/or regulations, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations on physical distancing should be applied.
- Face coverings (over the nose and mouth) shall be required as a condition of all guest ingress, egress, and movement throughout the stadium, as well as any time guests are unable to maintain the recommended physical distance from others who are not in their same household.
- Stadium workers and athletics staff should wear face coverings at all times.
Food, Beverage and Merchandise
- Barriers (e.g., plexiglass) shall be installed at all points-of-sale or otherwise all concessions staff shall wear a face shield plus a mask.
- Queuing lines at points-of-sale shall permit physical distancing between guests.
- “Grab and go” food/beverage options should be considered at points-of-sale locations.
- Beverages shall be provided directly to guests. Machines designed to allow guests to fill or refill beverages must remain inoperable.
- Condiments shall be offered only as single-serve condiments, and condiment carts shall be prohibited.
- All portable points-of-sale locations shall be strategically placed to ensure physical distancing is permitted between guests who are in line or may be in close proximity to the selling location for other purposes.
- Signage shall be installed at parking lots, pedestrian paths to the stadium, gates and/or other ingress/entry points that outlines mandates for all guests to wear face coverings, maintain physical distancing and mandates guests do not enter the stadium if they display any COVID-19 symptoms as outlined by the CDC.
- All tickets shall be digitally scanned.
- The footprint at all gates and ingress/entry and egress/exit points shall permit physical distancing between guests.
Institutions that cooperate with and/or arrange for shuttles to transport guests to/from the stadium shall ensure the shuttle operator has sufficient protocols/procedures in place including, but not limited to, the following:
o Maintaining physical distancing while guests are on the shuttle, entering/exiting the shuttle and while waiting in lines to board the shuttle;
o Requiring face coverings as a condition for shuttle usage for drivers and guests at all times while aboard the shuttle, entering/exiting and while waiting in line; and
o Planning to sufficiently and regularly disinfect the shuttle.
Plans for Disinfection, Symptomatic Guests, Communication/Public Relations and American with Disabilities Act
- Institutions shall have a documented plan that outlines the procedures/protocol for appropriate disinfection of the stadium.
Institutions shall have a documented plan that outlines the procedures/protocol for working with guests who exhibit COVID-19 symptoms.
- Institutions shall launch a communication/public relations campaign for communicating all COVID-19 procedures/protocol to prospective guests.
Institutions shall ensure they comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act in the development and implementation of all procedures/protocols. Premium Seating – Suites and Clubs 1. “Suite hopping” shall be prohibited. 2. Sufficient signage that promotes and instructs suite holders to wear face coverings and maintain physical distancing shall be installed near ingress/entry points. 3. Furniture shall be arranged in clubs to promote physical distancing. 4. Each suite and club shall be supplied with sufficient hand washing and/or hand sanitizing stations.
- Guests shall be permitted to access “field level” suites or clubs that are not within six feet (6′) of any team area. Additionally, institutions must ensure guests do not access a pathway to enter or exit a “field level” suite or club at the same time a student-athlete, coach, team staff member, game official or other game participant is utilizing the same pathway.
Public Areas Inside Stadium
Institutions shall ensure the set-up and operational procedures in all areas accessed by guests permit physical distancing including, but not limited to, the following areas:
o Guest Seating
o Concourses and Gathering Places
o Dining Areas (high top tables, extended countertops, etc.)
o Concessions Sales
o Merchandise Sales
- Sufficient signage that promotes and instructs guests to wear face coverings and maintain physical distancing shall be in place in areas accessed by guests.
Signage must specify the maximum number of guests who may be inside an elevator simultaneously at each elevator entry point (elevator operators shall wear face coverings).
- The usage of traditional water fountains or other apparatuses providing drinking water shall be prohibited and all must be clearly marked or covered to indicate its use is prohibited. This does not apply to apparatuses that use touchless technology.
- Sufficient hand washing and/or hand sanitizing stations should be present throughout the stadium.
- Entry and exit points shall be clearly designated, and sufficient signage shall be in place to assist with traffic flow and promote physical distancing.
- Institutions shall implement measures that promote physical distancing, reduce touch points and/or assist with minimizing the spread of COVID-19 including, but not limited to, the following:
o Installing additional hand sanitizer and hand soap dispensers; and
o Leaving doors open at entry/exit points.
- Institutions shall determine whether tailgating or other large gatherings of guests (e.g., alumni events, university recruiting events, etc.) are permitted on property owned and/or controlled by the institution in accordance with applicable state and local guidelines, policies and/or regulations. In the absence of state and/or local guidelines, CDC recommendations on physical distancing should be applied.
- Considerations should be given as to the time parking lots open.
- Institutions shall determine whether team walks are permitted in accordance with applicable state and local guidelines, policies and/or regulations.
If permitted, all institutional personnel (e.g., student-athletes, coaches, team staff, athletic department staff, etc.) and guests in attendance shall wear face coverings.
- If permitted, institutions shall ensure recommended physical distancing exists and may be maintained at all times between walk participants and guests. Team walks shall be prohibited if physical distancing cannot be implemented during its entirety.