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Clemson football fan experience

Justin Robertson, Senior Sports Reporter

On Sept. 19, 2020, Clemson football will host its first home game against the Citadel, but the atmosphere and experience will be far from normal. The days of 90,000 fans packed tight in like sardines are over, and instead, there will be a limited number, 19,0000, of masked fans following new protocols and rules in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

Putting the safety of the fans, employees and players at the forefront of their decisions, the Clemson football operations team has put in over 700 man-hours for the past seven months in order to ensure that fans can experience college football this season at Clemson. Before even entering the stadium, fans will see the first change made in the parking lots. Parking for the games has been modified so that no car is parked within a spot of one another. Although tailgating is already prohibited for this year, the spreading of parked cars should prevent any additional large gatherings from taking place prior to kickoff. 
Once fans are ready to enter the stadium, they are advised to have their virtual tickets already downloaded, so the scanning process is smooth and quick. Associate Athletic Director of Communications, Jeff Kallin, said, “From an entry standpoint, each of our fans is going to have a suggested time of entry to try to spread out the flow of when people are actually coming into the stadium.” Although it may be tempting to enter the stadium with friends, all fans should adhere to their own specific 30-minute interval to enter the stadium. 

Meanwhile, for employees and media members, the entrance process will look a tad bit different. Each employee working in the stadium, including media members, will have to take a questionnaire prior to arrival. Once they arrive at the stadium, a temperature check will be conducted before they are allowed to enter. These two tweaks seem minor, but the impact they could have on limiting the spread of COVID-19 is crucial. 

When fans go through the tunnels and into the stands, the first thing they may notice is the thousands of seats arranged in groups of two, four and six. Instead of everyone sitting and standing close together on the bleachers, these padded seats have been set out to create pod-like groups of fans. At no charge to fans, around 95% of these pods have two seats, 4% have four seats and 1% have six seats. In the student section, students will be completely isolated from other fans and will have separate restrooms and concession stands. Additionally, there is no assigned seating in this section, and students are allowed to move around freely, so long as they are following proper social distancing and not forming larger groups. 

Taking trips to the restroom and concession stands will also be a completely different ordeal. Restroom capacity is limited to ten people at a time, and every other stall and sink is closed off in order to maintain the six-feet social distancing requirement. Occasionally, there will be employees posted near the restrooms to ensure the ten-person limit is followed. If fans wish to purchase snacks or drinks during the game, they can still do so, but all items will be prepackaged and no hot food will be available. 

Once the game is over and the fans have left the stadium, that is where the real work begins for the operations employees. In addition to regular cleanings during the game, Associate Athletic Director of Facilities, Eric Sabin, said that after games, “Cleaning crews will also have disinfection crews. They are going to be going through with some of our approved disinfection solutions in all of our high touch areas. So, handrails, bathrooms, doors, counters, hand sanitizer units, we are going to be going through and cleaning those on a regular basis.” Sabin also went on to say that every padded seat in the stadium has been disinfected, which should give comfort to those with concerns about their safety at games. 

The typical fan’s experience may be different from years past, but that should not take anything away from the best college football atmosphere in the country. Clemson’s football operations team has done countless amounts of preparation that will keep the fans safe, so as long as everyone follows the rules Memorial Stadium should be rocking come game days. 

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