By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Slowly, but surely, they’re coming back.
Whatever you want to call them, the ones that add so much energy and atmosphere at sporting events.
We’re moving one step closer to normalcy with Iowa announcing that it will let will allow 50 percent capacity at outdoor venues for events, but will continue to restrict attendance at indoor events. Fans attending events will be required to wear face coverings upon entry in accordance with UI policy. Hand sanitizers will be available throughout the facilities. Capacity limitations will be reviewed on an ongoing basis as local conditions improve.
Iowa made the decision in response to the Big Ten announcing that attendance policies for all remaining 2020-21 Big Ten Conference regular season competitions will follow local health guidelines and restrictions. The decision to follow local health guidelines and restrictions was made jointly by the Big Ten Conference Directors of Athletics and the Council of Presidents and Chancellors in consultation with university medical experts and the conference office.
This is a significant step, not only for spring sports, but for all sports.
Because how things play out this spring probably will have a lot to say about the guidelines and restrictions that will be used for football.
Momentum is shifting to the side of sports getting back to normal with more and more people getting vaccinated for the coronavirus on a daily basis.
But don’t fool yourself, or let down your guard.
This highly contagious virus still is out there causing death and misery. It’s still a threat that can’t be taken lightly.
Needless to say, we need fans back at Iowa football games ASAP.
The damage from not having fans for just one season at Iowa was devastating as jobs were lost, sports were eliminated and budgets were cut in order to deal with the financial shortfalls.
Hotels and restaurants also have suffered in a huge way, so this move to 50 percent capacity is encouraging.
It maybe is another sign, along with the vaccines, that there finally is a light at the end of this long, dark tunnel.
The student-athletes and coaches, and everyone else who have helped to keep college sports going during a global pandemic, deserve praise and thanks for providing a nice distraction, and for providing a little slice of normalcy.
But we can’t afford to have another football season and basketball season played without the stadiums and arenas being at least 50 percent full.
The return to normal started with the decision to play sports with limited fans, and now it’s on to the next step, which is 50 percent full, which would be approximately 35,000 fans for an Iowa football game at Kinnick Stadium.
That certainly isn’t close to a sellout, or even a typical attendance figure, but it sure would beat the near empty stadiums that the Iowa football played in late last fall, and the near empty arenas that Luka Garza and the Iowa men’s basketball team played in this winter.
The thought of at least 35,000 Hawkeye fans performing the Wave at Kinnick Stadium this coming fall should bring a smile to everyone’s face.
Assuming the vaccines become more available, and spring sports are played without any setbacks related to the virus, there is reason to think that football might have more than 50 percent capacity this fall.
And that’s reason to be optimistic.