VANDERBURGH CO., Ind. (WFIE) - On Evansville’s west side, Friday was suppose to be the Blue-Gray Scrimmage for the Panthers at Reitz High School, but as teams across the state inch closer to the start of the regular season, schools are receiving new guidance from the Indiana High School Athletic Association on allowing fans in the stands.
In just two weeks, pregame preps will be underway at the Reitz Bowl, as the Panthers are slated to host Harrison High School in their 2020 home opener.
“We will continue to do all that we can to get to that first game,” Andy Owen, director of athletics for the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation said.
Coaches and players know the 2020 regular season will look a little different in the Reitz Bowl than in years past for a few reasons.
The stadium is already seeing renovations to the bleachers, but will there be less fans in the new bleachers? According to new guidance from the IHSAA, the answer is yes.
On Thursday, state leaders released guidelines for spectators at fall sporting events, and of course, this includes Friday Night Lights.
The document says there can be fans in the stands, but it’s at the discretion of the hosting school, and guidelines must be in accordance with Governor Eric Holcomb’s “Stage 4.5″ reopening plans.
In terms of the layout, state leaders consider a set of bleachers as “one area,” so just like with any large gathering, there cannot be more than 250 fans in one set of bleachers. But with a more wrap-around stadium like the Reitz Bowl, what could this mean for fans?
“There’s a lot of confusion on whether there’s the bleachers is one long set of bleachers, or one side of the stadium,” Owen said. “We’ve got to get guidance, and we need clear communication from the Vanderburgh County Health Department on this.”
Owen says the plan is for each school to present an outline to the health department on how many fans they feel they can hold at a safe capacity. For example, the Reitz Bowl can hold up to 10,000 fans. With that in mind, school officials feel they could safely hold more than 250 fans at a time.
“We would do a lot of pre-sales,” Owen said. “We’re going to have to control the number that we put out of tickets each game when they put a limitation on us. It’s going to take a lot of collaborative work between our community, our athletic department, our players, but we are going to try to do what’s fair.”
School officials have also talked about finding new ways to stream games online - so fans can watch safely from home. Owen says for his coaches and athletes, they are just thankful to compete.
”We are going to do everything we can to give everyone an opportunity to see their home team play and their son or daughter compete,” Owen said.
As for the student section, it will also look different this year with students socially distanced among multiple sections of the stands.