Governor eases capacity restrictions at large sporting venues, high school football

((Source: NBC12))
Updated: Mar. 23, 2021 at 3:24 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Beginning April 1, more fans will have the opportunity to attend sporting events in Virginia.

Governor Ralph Northam announced on Tuesday that large sporting venues, such as Richmond Raceway and The Diamond, will be permitted to operate at 30 percent capacity with no number cap starting the first of next month. The last updated guidelines had capped these complexes at 1,000 spectators, but the latest mandates will offer organizations the chance to get more people in the seats.

Richmond Raceway will host its spring NASCAR weekend April 17-18. The track’s capacity is listed at 51,000, so by the numbers the venue could welcome 15,300 fans into the stands. The track has yet to release its plan for hosting fans in April.

Meanwhile, The Diamond has a capacity of 9,560, and the 30 percent mark puts the number of fans possible at 2,868. The Flying Squirrels’ opener is on May 4, so there’s a chance the guidelines could loosen even more if numbers continue to trend in the right direction. Squirrels’ vice president and chief operating officer Todd “Parney” Parnell says the team’s front office is working on the particulars in terms of rolling out tickets and should have an announcement soon. He also says that fans should stay tuned to the team’s website and social media pages throughout the season, as things will change and announcements will take place.

“This is just another very positive step forward, not just for the Squirrels, we’re a very very small part in all of this, for the whole community,” Parney said on Tuesday. “Sports and entertainment are going to be a huge part of the healing process. Imagine what people are going to feel like in our communities when they all get back together.”

The Richmond Kickers are also scheduled to open their season next month, the club’s home opener on April 24 against Greenville Triumph SC at City Stadium. The venue’s capacity is listed at 9,000 on the team’s website, putting the 30 percent mark at 2,700. NBC12 has reached out to the Kickers regarding their attendance policy for the upcoming season.

As for high school football, that’s categorized as a recreational sport, but more people will be able to take in games starting April 1. The governor announced that 500 spectators will be permitted at recreational sporting events, doubling the previous number of 250. This will be in effect for the final games of the regular season as well as the playoffs, which last through the first weekend in May.

Northam also noted that some of the reasons for not allowing more fans at high school football games come from the lack of resources and personnel to control the crowd. Professional and college sports venues have event staff stationed throughout the stands that can help enforce guidelines, while most high school stadiums do not.

“It gets down to our ability to have the infrastructure and the staff in place at college and professional venues,” Northam said. “We don’t have that ability at high schools.”

The governor added that cheerleaders and band members would still count towards the overall capacity, but says raising that capacity will allow them to participate.

This is a developing story and we will continue to bring you more information as it becomes available.

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