Despite state being coronavirus hot spot, Iowa State planning to have around 25,000 fans at home opener

Iowa State plans to allow some fans to attend its season opener at Jack Trice Stadium on Sept. 12.

The Cyclones are expecting approximately 25,000 fans with social distancing and mitigation strategies implemented due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If our mitigation actions are successful, we will allow all season ticket purchasers to attend the Oklahoma game Oct. 3,” Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard said in a letter to fans Monday. “However, if we determine that mitigation measures were not followed adequately at the first game, we will have no fans at future games (beginning with Oklahoma).”

The announcement comes the day Ames was identified as the country’s worst coronavirus “hot spot” city by the New York Times. Iowa City, home to the University of Iowa, was second while the state of Iowa was tabbed as the worst “hot spot” state.

Story County’s 14-day positivity rate is currently at 21.3%, according to data provided by the state. Eighty percent of those cases are from individuals aged 18-to-40. The county reported a record 167 positive tests Wednesday, Aug. 26. The previous pre-August high was 59 on June 15.

Iowa State began in-person classes on Aug. 17 after going online only last spring in response to the pandemic.

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The Story County Board of Health officially requested in June that Iowa State not host fans at home games.

“We strongly recommend that Iowa State University prohibit spectators at sporting events this fall,” the board wrote then. “Please only broadcast them. We cannot think of any way these events can be made even remotely safe with the masses of people from throughout Iowa, and other states, who routinely attend these events. Please do it for the health of our community.”

In response, Pollard stated in June that “I just take my lead from (university) president (Dr. Wendy) Wintersteen” in regards to fan attendance.

President Wintersteen, through a spokesperson, has declined multiple interview requests this month.

More than 180,000 Americans have died due to COVID-19 since the pandemic’s start.

“Every person has a unique perspective of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Pollard wrote. “Some are fearless, others are cautious. Our measures will be too restrictive for some and too lenient for others. All we ask is that you respect others, follow our guidelines and support the Cyclones.”

Iowa Sate's Jack Trice Stadium, which seats over 60,000, will have capacity capped at around 25,000 for the season opener.

Football is an economic imperative for the Iowa State athletic department. Pollard previously estimated the Cyclones would see $40 million in “unfunded expenses” if football was not played in the fall. Iowa State sold more than $11 million in tickets for the 2019 football season.

Allowing some fans at Jack Trice Stadium, which normally has a capacity of over 60,000, will allow Iowa State to lessen some of the economic impact, but with a shortened season, limited attendance and the nationwide economic uncertainty, it will still potentially see a major financial hit.

Restrictions for fans at football games this fall includes:

  • No tailgating
  • Mandatory face coverings
  • Socially distant seating
  • Limited concessions 

“We will continue to monitor the situation closely the next two weeks,” Pollard said, “and will take appropriate actions, including no fans for the first game, if circumstances warrant changes.”

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