25% limited Capacity at the Bounce House
ORLANDO, FLORIDA – UCF on Saturday night will play its first home football game of the 2020 season at the Bounce House against Tulsa.
For a variety of reasons, however, it will be unlike any other event held at that facility.
Yet much of the prominent messaging around the football game mirrors what fans have been hearing every day:
–“Face Covering Required” (Spectators are required to wear face coverings at all times—other than when actively eating or drinking in their own seats.)
–“Keep Your Distance” (Fans are required to practice physical distancing.)
–“Wash Your Hands”
–“Know Your Zone” (Fans are assigned to enter a specific stadium gate adjacent to the zone in which their seats are located.)
At East Carolina last weekend, for example, the Knights and Pirates played in front of only player family members.
UCF, however, will have a maximum 25% capacity (about 11,000 spectators–3,000 of them students) for its home opener against Tulsa—a decision that was announced Aug. 31. That came after consultations with local Florida Department of Health representatives.
Tickets for the UCF-Tulsa game Saturday (7:35 p.m. ET) remain on sale to the general public, as do two-game and four-game packets. Click Here for tickets. Other home games are Oct. 24 vs. Tulane, Nov. 14 vs. Temple and Nov. 21 vs. Cincinnati.
Once the determination for limited attendance came about, the UCF Athletics facility staff went into action to create a battle plan.
It’s safe to say that subject has dominated the life of Brian Barton, UCF’s senior associate athletics director for facility and event management—as he, assistant athletics director Kathleen Murphy and their staff have spent countless hours planning for Knights football games in the COVID era.
They’ve done that by consulting with health experts—and by constantly taking notes on what’s happening at other events both locally and around the country. In some ways, UCF had an advantage with its comparatively late start to the home season. That enabled Barton and others to find out what other schools and programs were doing and how they have since tweaked their plans.
It all began with an hour-long late July meeting at the Bounce House that included Orange County representatives of the Florida Department of Health, an athletic staff contingent led by vice president and director of athletics Danny White—plus UCF vice president for compliance and risk Rhonda Bishop and Dr. Michael Deichen, associate vice president of UCF Student Health Services.
“We all came to the stadium and developed a plan for 25% capacity,” says Barton. “That was the biggest piece to get in place.”
Next, the UCF staff proposed the notion of restricted access for fans within a series of zones.
“The zones were key because they triggered everything else–from parking to the gate you enter,” says Barton. “The directive we received was to try to limit people from interacting because that’s less chance for (COVID) spread. We initially looked at four quadrants and then we expanded it to seven to make it even more robust.
“The intent is to have fans park as close to their gates as they can, enter that gate and get to their seats—in the least amount of time, with the least amount of distance to cover–and interact with as few people along the way as is realistic. That was a big domino.”
Once fans enter the Bounce House they’ll be reminded of a variety of changes within the venue (all of which are listed here in UCF’s A-to-Z guide for the season: UCFGameDay.com
Among changes fans will see are:
–Digital ticketing to provide touchless gate entry
–General admission seating within zones
–Installation of 50 125 Ecolab hand sanitizer kiosks around the stadium
–Enhanced cleaning in advance and during the game of all high-touch surfaces
–Pre-packaged food items and condiments at concession stands
–Plexiglass shields at concession points of sale
Fans are reminded that many of the traditional IOA Plaza pregame festivities—Knight Walk, the Tailgate Concert Series, March to Victory, the Kids Zone and the Sponsor Fan Zone–will not be happening in 2020. There will be photo opportunities with UCF mascots and a performance from the Marching Knights pep band with members of the spirit team.
Per American Athletic Conference rules, there will be no on-field performances by the home team band, no spirit squads on the field to start the season and no visiting team bands or spirit squads permitted. The Marching Knights and spirit teams will still have a presence in the stadium bowl.
Until further notice, tailgating will be prohibited in order to reduce the risk of large gatherings. There will be no open-container waiver on UCF game days, meaning fans cannot consume alcohol on campus grounds or in parking lots or garages.
Maybe the most noteworthy of the changes are the same recommendations fans have been hearing now for months relative to wearing masks and physical distancing.
“That’s a huge focus,” says Barton. “It’s a big priority on campus. Every person working the game will be part of the ‘mask police.’ There will be lollipop signs that say, ‘Spread Out’ on one side and ‘Put Your Mask On’ on the other. We’ll go up to people if we have to—but we hope we don’t have to. But there’s definitely going to be a concerted effort to encourage people to wear their masks. It will be more than a message or two on the video board.”
UCF’s hope is that fans will be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
“Our biggest interest is the need for fan buy-in,” says Barton.
“We need them to understand that this is the way to have football in 2020. We’ve got to go out of our way to make this work, after a great amount of work by a great amount of people on the plan. Now the plan has to work—and part of it working is the fans being responsible, both for themselves and those around them.
“We want to continue to have fans at our games—and, if we can make this work, there’s a chance we could have additional numbers of fans in attendance at future games.”
Barton stresses that he and his staff and lots of others at UCF have been doing their homework for a long time.
“There are learning lessons–we tweaked things after talking to Florida State after it played its first game. We talked to Orlando City (MLS soccer) after it started the season. We tweaked some things after our road trips to Georgia Tech and ECU. That happens every year—COVID just makes it more pronounced.
“We’re hopeful that since we’ve had a little more runway up to our first game that we’ve been able to learn from other people’s lessons instead of having to learn from our own.
“We’ll wait and see on that.”
CLICK HERE FOR BREVARD COUNTY NEWS