Fan attendance at high school games in Maine this fall is going to be limited.
Schools that allow spectators will not only have few available spots for fans, but most will reserve those spots for parents and family members of players on the host team.
The Maine Principals’ Association has given the OK for soccer, field hockey, cross country and golf.
With state rules limiting outdoor gatherings to 100 people because of COVID-19, most leagues are prohibiting visiting fans this season. Some schools will not allow any spectators.
The Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference, the Penobscot Valley Conference and the Aroostook League all have elected to allow only “home” fans at events. Calais athletic director Randy Morrisson expects Downeast Athletic Conference schools to follow suit.
Skowhegan athletic administrator Jon Christopher has done the math and calculated there would be 99 people involved in a boys soccer game, 92 for field hockey and 88 for girls soccer. That includes players, coaches, trainers, referees, ball runners, clock operators, staff and two media spots.
The school will live stream its home games and will play without fans, with the exception of “Seniors Night.” That will be the first home game of the season, because Skowhegan doesn’t want to miss the opportunity in case the season gets shut down.
Skowhegan will use six parents to serve as ball runners, instead of youngsters, so they can watch the game.
Waterville athletic director Heidi Bernier said two family members of senior players will get tickets to all games and leftover tickets will be distributed among junior parents, then those of sophomores and freshmen. It will rotate each time to include parents who did not get tickets previously.
Brewer athletic director Dave Utterback, Presque Isle AD Mark White and Christopher are among the ADs that would like to see Gov. Janet Mills and state agencies restructure the sports guidelines to match those in place for professional events like stock car racing.
Maine’s four racetracks may have 200 people in the stands, in four pods of 50, if they are spread out to meet social distancing guidelines.
“If they would allow us to have 200, we could make it work easily and safely for families who want to watch their kids play sports,” Utterback said. “Every player would get two tickets [for family members].
White said Presque Isle’s facility could easily accommodate 200 fans while meeting state guidelines. Christopher said even increasing the limit to 150 would be a game-changer.
The PVC is not expected to allow spectators at cross country meets because of the difficulty in managing the crowd.
White said monitoring the movement of 100 people at meets will be challenging in the County.
“But we’ll do the best we can,” he said.
Orono AD Mike Archer said he expects to have 35 slots available for fans after taking into consideration the participants and essential personnel.
“We are going to give preference to our seniors. Their parents will be taken care of first,” he said.
There are other ways to increase the number of fans at games, including reducing the number of ball runners, splitting the cheering squad between home games and not having a concession stand.
Christopher is against trimming rosters to accommodate more fans.
ADs also may have to deal with the lack of game officials in soccer and field hockey. Utterback intends to play doubleheaders at Brewer with the boys and girls teams, alternating the early and late games, and use the same officials for both games.
Games may begin Sept. 25 under the MPA guidelines, although several schools may delay longer since they haven’t held any organized workouts.
Some schools will offer live streaming of home games through commercial outlets or by having a camera person situated in the bleachers.
“We’re going to do everything we can to stream every [home] game although I don’t know if they will be live all the time,” said Archer, who plans to have a student run the camera. “We want to put it out there for the public and make it accessible [to fans].”