Social Distancing in Sanford Stadium? UGA Administration Exploring Options

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Social Distancing in Sanford Stadium? UGA Administration Exploring Options

Athletic director Greg McGarity
Athletic director Greg McGarity

University of Georgia officials are exploring options for what could possibly happen if the 2020 college football season begins in September, and are advising a plan that would allow a restricted amount of fans in Sanford Stadium.

“We’re running models on various social distancing mandates,” athletic director Greg McGarity said Wednesday. “It depends on what phase we’re in. I don’t think it’s ever going to be business as usual because there’s going to be new standards in play as far as hygiene, the way we look at concessions, the way we look at seating.”

McGarity added that he has been working on those specific details during the last month when society has become accustomed to the practice of social distancing themselves due to the outbreak of the coronavirus.

“We’re reviewing all that right now as far as gates, as far as seats available, how we would manage that,” McGarity said.

UGA’s first scheduled game is against Virginia on Labor Day at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, which is 16 weeks away. The uncertainty of these unprecedented times brings to question if the season will start on time or let alone be disrupted by a second wave of the virus.

Officials at the University of South Carolina are also surveying the idea of a limited number of seats in Williams-Bryce Stadium come fall.

“It is likely that social distancing will be in place at Williams-Brice and our other venues,” athletic director Ray Tanner said according to The State.

This would cause a substantial decrease in attendance in a conference where five of fourteen schools have stadium capacities of over 90,000.

“If we have a stadium in Alabama that holds 110,000 people against LSU—I went there—we want to have 110,000, we don’t want to have 25,000 people or 40,000,” President Donald Trump said last Sunday night.

McGarity leads a group of 14 personnel that are working towards finishing a report by May 18. In that report, there will be details of how many fans will be permitted to attend games inside Sanford Stadium, which has a maximum capacity of 92,746.

According to UGA President Jere Morehead, the school plans to resume in-person instruction in mid-August when the Fall 2020 semester begins.

“I don’t want a lot of people to panic on something that really has not been determined yet,” McGarity said. “We’re going through various scenarios that deal with different levels of social distancing in every aspect of a football Saturday.”

This would include parking around campus and ways of entering the stadium through select gates.

Several NFL teams including the Atlanta Falcons are looking at ways to safely allow fans to social distance while attending games inside Mercedes- Benz when the NFL season starts up.

“There are so many unknowns out there,” said Steve Cannon, CEO of AMB Group, parent company for the Atlanta Falcons and Mercedes-Benz Stadium, according to USA TODAY Sports. “We’re trying to plan against this dynamic, shifting landscape. That said, fan psychology is probably the most important thing we know. You’re not going to get fans in your building unless they feel they can be safe there, that they can gather in a safe manner. Some of those things we can control, some of those things we can’t control.”

After Georgia opens up with Virginia in Atlanta, they return to Sanford Stadium for their first home game against East Tennessee State on Sept. 12.

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Currently an intern for BI, and a junior journalism major at the University of Georgia.