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Des Moines Register
Iowa State is planning to open Jack Trice Stadium to fans again.
Athletics director Jamie Pollard said Thursday that up to 15,000 fans, including 1,000 students, will be permitted for the Oct. 3 Big 12 Conference game against third-ranked Oklahoma at Jack Trice Stadium.
A decision to allow 25,000 fans for the season-opening Sept. 12 game against Louisiana was reversed after people from the campus and within the community raised concerns that Iowa State was “proposing too much, too soon,” president Wendy Wintersteen said after 25,000 became zero.
Dr. John Paschen, chairman of the Story County Board of Health, was among the community members concerned with the announcement that fans would attend the season opening game.
“Now, I’m actually kind of excited, a term you rarely hear from me,” Paschen told the Register on Thursday. “I’m excited to see the plan and how the crowd is handled.”
One of the requirements: Face coverings will be mandatory, and anyone who refuses “will be denied access and/or removed from the stadium,” according to the letter.
Pollard’s letter stated that COVID-19 weekly campus positivity results declined from a high of 33% on Aug. 30 to 5% on Sept. 20. The campus 10-day rolling average, as of Sept. 22, he wrote, declined to 4%. The letter also states that the 14-day positivity results from Story County testing declined from 22% on Sept. 1 to 8% on Sept. 23.
Pollard said this was not an overnight decision. He indicated the 15,000 number is workable, after a significant number of ticket-owning fans chose to opt out when given that opportunity last month.
“Campus officials have closely monitored the local COVID positivity rate, factored in projected attendance for an Iowa State home game, and noted the crowd sizes that other institutions (and) NFL teams have hosted this season to best assess the feasibility of having fans at games,” Pollard wrote in his letter.
Iowa State also consulted with the Infection Control Education for Major Sports organization, which the Big 12 and NFL use to help provide coronavirus recommendations. Pollard said Iowa State used information from Dr. Chris Hostler, one of two Duke University infectious disease doctors who run the ICS.
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“Other institutions have successfully hosted fans the last two weeks,” Pollard wrote. “The Kansas City Chiefs opened the NFL season in front of 17,000 fans, and other Big 12 schools have also had fans in their stadiums.”
The NBA, Major League Baseball and professional hockey are being played without fans in stadiums and arenas.
“Our staff has been in contact with the Chiefs organization and other Big 12 schools who have had fans at games, to learn more about game-day operations in their stadiums,” Pollard said. “Additionally, members of the University public health team have connected with State and Story County public health officials to solicit feedback on game-day mitigation strategies.”
The Iowa State Cyclones kicked off to the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns to start the Big 12 season at Jack Trice Stadium with no fans in attendance Sept. 12. (Photo: Reese Strickland, Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports)
Pollard said fans will have assigned seats, which he wrote will “provide efficient contact tracing, if necessary.” Junior Cyclone Club hillside seating will be eliminated; tickets will be refunded.
A drawing will determine which season-ticket holding students are allowed in the stadium. Refunds will be given to season-ticket holding students who missed out on the drawing.
“The athletics department has strategically reassigned all remaining seat locations for the general public using current Cyclone Club giving levels, priority points within those levels, and taking into account location and/or price, to create improved social distancing,” Pollard wrote.
Mitigation principles include:
- Don’t come to the game if you’re sick or have symptoms related to COVID-19.
- No tailgating on university-owned property.
- Face coverings will be required, and anyone who refuses “will be denied access and/or removed from the stadium,” according to the letter.
- Fans are urged to arrive early and proceed directly to the stadium.
Gates will open 90 minutes before kickoff, which, as of now, will be either 11 a.m. or 12:30 p.m.
“I plan to be there,” longtime season-ticket holder Gene Meyer said. “I’m excited that I get to attend a football game. I appreciate the cautious approach that’s been taken by both by Jamie and President Wintersteen. The last couple weeks have demonstrated that with a limited number of people following proper mitigation — it can happen.”
Iowa State’s plan to allow up to 25,000 fans at the Sept. 12 game was announced the same day Ames was identified as the nation’s worst coronavirus hot spot, and a day after the White House told the state of Iowa that more drastic measures were needed to slow the coronavirus spread.
“We are No. 1 in our positivity case(load) in the country,” Paschen said after the initial crowd size was announced for the season opening game. “It’s irresponsible.”
But when contacted Thursday, he was cautiously optimistic.
“I honestly feel that this can be done safely,” Paschen said, “if it’s done correctly.”
Cyclones season-ticket holder Jason Loutsch is confident the plan will work, assuming fans follow mitigation principles.
“I think it’s very exciting,” he said. “Thanks to Jamie Pollard and the diligence the athletics department and the university have taken in getting fans back in the stadium.
“Getting back to some normalcy is very important.”
The Iowa State Cyclones cheer squad roots for the Cyclones from the empty stands before the Sept. 12 game against the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns at Jack Trice Stadium. (Photo: Reese Strickland/USA TODAY Sports)
Iowa State columnist Randy Peterson has been writing for the Des Moines Register for parts of six decades. Reach him at [email protected], 515-284-8132, and on Twitter at @RandyPete.
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