The Big 12 Conference is still pushing forward with a fall football season, and West Virginia is making plans for its 2020 schedule, which features six home games.
What exactly game day will look like at Mountaineer Field is still TBD, though.
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Here are my unofficial answers to some of the game day questions.
Fans in the stands? Still not certain but best case scenario is there will be a reduced capacity.
Social distancing? If there are fans, yes.
Masks required? If there are fans, definitely.
Tickets? No paper, only mobile ticketing for contactless entry.
Parking? – If fans allowed, limited hours of operations.
Concessions? Mostly prepackaged.
Restrooms? Open with modifications to address pandemic safety issues.
Entrance? If there are fans, there will be assigned entry gates and times depending on ticket location
Mountaineer Mantrip? – No.
Band? – Probably a smaller group though it likely won’t be allowed field access.
New videoboard and sound system? Yes, to end the list with good news, both are expected to be operational by the season opener.
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Of course, all of these answers are subject to change, as West Virginia is still working out all the details for its game day plan.
“We have to make these decisions real soon,” noted WVU director of athletics Shane Lyons. “We have a plan that our event staff has worked on. That plan entails things like wearing masks, social distancing, ingress and egress, putting stickers on the floor of the concourses like you see in stores to show people how far apart to stand, and many other things. We’re in the process of finalizing our plan.
“We’re also working with our concessionaire, Sodexho, to check their protocols. They’re a national company, so they already have protocols in place,” he added. “We’re also working with our security company, Rhino, about what they have in place.
“There are a lot of moving parts to this.”
Some parts of the plan West Virginia starts with very well could change over the course of the season if the COVID-19 situation gets better or worse.
“We have a plan, but that plan may vary to some degree,” explained Lyons in an exclusive interview with the Blue & Gold News.
“One thing to note is that as the season goes along, our plan could change. Maybe we start out at 25 percent (of fan capacity), but if there is an outbreak, we may go to zero. The other way is possible, too, and potentially we could go higher as well. We just have to be flexible and capable of change.”
How many fans WVU allows into Mountaineer Field this fall is one of the biggest questions to be resolved, and West Virginia’s athletic department is consulting with many people to make that determination.
“There are a lot of hands that go into this,” Lyons said when asked about capacity. “If you had asked me a month ago, I had hoped we could get 50 percent. Everyone is asking the same question, even in the pro sports. I think what you’re seeing now is 25 to 30 percent, which will allow us to social distance throughout the stadium.
“There are lot people who will make that decision,” he continued. “It’s not just the athletic department but also the University, the local health department, medical experts in the state and local governments, even the Governor (Jim Justice) will get involved. Hopefully in the next week or two, we will have a better idea what this looks like.”
No matter what, game day at Mountaineer Field will be much different in 2020 than it has in any other season since the stadium opened 40 years ago.
What it exactly looks like, though, is still to be determined, even though the first scheduled game of the season – Eastern Kentucky on Sept. 12 – is quickly approaching.
(This was part 5 in a multi-part series from our interview with WVU A.D. Shane Lyons. In part 6, we’ll start to look ahead to basketball season.)