In an open letter to Cyclone fans Sept. 24, President Wendy Wintersteen and athletics director Jamie Pollard shared plans for allowing about 15,000 spectators into Jack Trice Stadium Saturday, Oct. 3, for the Big 12 Conference game against Oklahoma. A game time isn't set yet. In a 61,500-seat stadium, that's just under 25% capacity.
The letter's purpose, they wrote, is to "ask for your support in helping create a safe environment while also providing our team an impactful home field advantage."
All seats will be assigned -- including 1,000 in the student section -- to assist with efficient contact tracing later, if needed. The letter outlines strict COVID-19 mitigation rules and notes that anyone who disregards them will be denied admission or removed from the stadium.
"The safety of all participants and fans remains our top priority," they wrote. "Please understand that it will be critical that we receive full buy-in from everyone attending the game."
As spelled out in the letter, football season ticket holders who kept their 2020 tickets will receive a new seat location this week via email. Wintersteen and Pollard wrote that many fans have returned their tickets, and the anticipated attendance reflects that trend. The new seating assignments will reflect current Cyclone Club donations, priority points within the giving levels and former seat locations/price in a configuration that further improves physical distancing among fans.
With the elimination of general admission seating, the athletics department also had to cancel Junior Cyclone Club hillside seating for the season and will refund those tickets.
According to Wintersteen and Pollard, athletics department staff studied other universities' strategies for their student sections the last few weeks to see what works. As a result, all ISU students who purchased and kept their 2020 football season tickets will get a refund. Instead, the athletics department will conduct a drawing of those students for 1,000 complimentary, assigned seats for the Oct. 3 game. Keeping space between groups of students will be important for safety. Plans for student fans at future home football games hinges on how well students observe the mitigation plan Oct. 3, they added.
Wintersteen and Pollard wrote that the declining percentage of COVID-19 tests that are positive -- on campus and in Story County -- influenced their decision for the Oct. 3 event. From a high of 33% on Aug. 30, the campus positivity rate dropped to less than 5% on Sept. 20, and the 10-day rolling average on campus was 4% on Sept. 22. The county's 14-day positivity rate went from 22% on Sept. 1 to 8% on Sept. 23.
Athletics leaders consulted with Duke University infectious disease doctors who run an independent service, Infection Control Education for Major Sports, and make recommendations to the NFL and Big 12 Conference. Leaders also talked with staff at the Kansas City Chiefs organization and other Big 12 Conference schools to learn more about their game-day operations with fans in attendance.
Cyclone fans care
Some of the game-day expectations Wintersteen and Pollard shared include:
- Fans who are sick or have any COVID-related symptoms should stay home.
- All fans should wear face coverings anytime they're not in their vehicles.
- Parking lots open two hours before kickoff. Tailgating isn't allowed on university property before or after the game. This ban includes grills, lawn chairs, tables, tents, coolers and lawn games.
- Fans should park their vehicles, gather their game gear and walk directly to a stadium entrance. Gates will open 90 minutes before kickoff; allow time to enter the stadium respecting physical distancing from other fans.
- Fans are asked to stay in their seats as much as possible and avoid gathering on the concourses. Concessions counters will serve only soda and water.