COLUMBUS, Ohio — A sell out won’t be what it once was.
Lance Himes, interim director of the Ohio Department of Health, signed an order providing mandatory requirements for youth, collegiate, amateur, club and profession sports on Wednesday.
The order, announced by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, took effect at 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday. The order sets social distancing requirements and lists requirements for sports to practice and compete.
The order states the maximum number of individuals gathered in any outdoor sports venue must be lesser than 1,500, or 15 percent of the fixed seating capacity. For indoor facilities, the maximum number of individuals gathers shall be lesser than 300 spectators or 15 percent of the fixed seating capacity.
It is recommended that school and organization officials prioritize ticket distribution or event access to participants’ families and household members if possible.
River Valley will be using a voucher system, explained athletic director Richard Stephens.
“Vouchers will go out ahead of each game, volleyball, football or cross country,” Stephens said. “Those restrictions are based on the capacity of our facilities by ODH guidance, which is 15 percent. What that equals out to for our indoor facility, each volleyball player and coach will receive three vouchers, and the opposing team will receive a total of 40 vouchers to distribute to their fans. For football, that will equate to five vouchers for every player, band member, cheerleader and coach, and the away team will get 90 to distribute to their fans.”
Ticket vouchers must be shown at the ticket gate to purchase a ticket to enter the gate of the facility.
At Gallia Academy, football will be sold by a pre-sale method to the parents and families of athletes, band members and cheerleaders, explained athletic director Adam Clark.
“This is still pending health department approval, but for state guidelines, this is what we meet, we can sell 300 on the home side, which gives us four per participant, and we can sell 120 tickets to the visitors. As of now, the only ticket that will be pre-sold is varsity football.”
Clark noted with the GAHS gym open to capacity, volleyball will be able to seat over 250 spectators, meaning tickets can be purchased at the gate. Another question remaining for Gallia Academy is what its sideline will look like this fall.
“Soccer in the league will be easy for everybody but us, because they play inside their football stadiums,” Clark noted. “We’ll have to wait for Tyler Schweickart at the health department to tell us what he thinks we can and can’t do, because we don’t have bleachers. I’m hoping we can go four tickets per athlete and follow the football guidelines.”
Clark also mentioned that football halftime would be 10 minutes this season, and that GAHS has cut back the number of teams at its annual cross country invitational.
RVHS will also host cross country this season, and Stephens noted that ticket voucher numbers should be similar to football.
Venues must develop a spectator pathway that allows for physical distancing as spectators move from parking, through box office lines, ticket scanning and security screening to their seats.
Seating must be assigned in groups of no more than four people who know one another, but members of the same household may be seated together even if there are more than four people. Spectators must sit in their assigned seats separated from the next group by at least six feet. General admission is only allowable if the event has clearly marked areas six-feet apart.
With all the extra steps everyone has gone through, Stephens is excited to see sports returning to River Valley very soon.
“Our athletes have been working hard all summer, and they’ve been following the mandates,” Stephens said. “For them to have the opportunity to compete is a great thing, and it’s also great for our families and spectators to be able to come cheer on their kids. It’s the best of a bad situation, we’re just happy to be playing sports again at River Valley.”
Other recommendations include contact-free ticketing, assigning arrival times, blocking off unused seats, blocking off the front row, and blocking off the back row.
Players, coaches, athletic trainers, officials and spectators must conduct daily symptom assessments before each practice or game, and anyone experiencing symptoms must stay home.
Coaches must participate in COVID-19 education, and there is to be no congregating before or after practice or games by players, coaches, athletic trainers, officials, or spectators.
Coaches, athletic trainers, volunteers, officials and spectators must wear face coverings at all times, and players must wear face coverings when not on the field or court of play.
Face coverings must be worn at all times in locker rooms, weight rooms, restrooms, and athletic training rooms. Concession stands must adhere to Ohio’s guidance for restaurants, bars, banquet and catering facilities and services.
During practices, games and tournaments, six-feet social distance must be maintained between individuals except when necessary on the field or court of play. Players, coaches and officials are not to physically contact each other before or after practice, or pregame of competitive play.
Participating athletes at a cross country race are limited to 150 per race, and smaller numbers are encouraged.
Prior to tournaments, the tournament organizer must notify the local health department.
To limit exposure, no team shall play against more than one opponent in a 24-hour period. Teams may play the same opponent more than once in a 24-hour period.
Any players, coaches, officials or other individuals who become ill or develop symptoms must be immediately isolated and seek medical care. A team, school, or club must notify all athletes, parents and guardians associated with the affected team regarding a positive test. If the affected individual participated in competitive play, all opponents must be notified from two days prior to first symptoms.
Information regarding similar attendance policies at South Gallia were not available at press time but will be reported when released.
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Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.