Fans welcome: Lee County games at 25 percent capacity; Collier 2 tickets per household
There will be fans in the stands after all this season.
The public school districts in Collier and Lee counties announced plans to allow limited attendance at high school sporting events on Thursday. Having any fans at all was in doubt after Collier County Public School said two weeks ago that it would not allow spectators this season due to concerns over the coronavirus.
The School District of Lee County announced Thursday morning that it's football stadiums will operate at 25 percent capacity when regular-season games begin Sept.17 and 18. All tickets will be pre-sold due to concerns over the spread of the novel coronavirus.
On Thursday afternoon, Collier County Public Schools announced it will allow two fans per game participant into athletic events, reversing its Aug. 20 decision that would bar all spectators. The district worked with local Department of Health officials to create safe guidelines for allowing spectators, CCPS athletic director Mark Rosenbalm said.
"We are grateful to the Department of Health-Collier for allowing us limited spectators to watch and support our student-athletes," Rosenbalm said. "We're moving in the right direction. We will continue to monitor (coronavirus numbers) and make adjustments as the DOH allows."
The two-tickets-per-participant rule applies to football and volleyball games and cross country meets hosted by CCPS schools (Barron Collier, Everglades City, Golden Gate, Gulf Coast, Immokalee, Lely, Naples, Palmetto Ridge). Volleyball games begin next week, while Collier football teams begin Sept. 17.
“We’re very happy, if not for any other reason than parents get to watch their kids,” Palmetto Ridge athletic director Brent Brickzin said. “Yes, it’s going to help our budgets. I’m not going to deny that. But the nice thing about it is all our parents now get to see their kids perform.”
Naples defensive back Devin Moore was also satisfied with the decision.
"I love the reversal," Moore said. "It gives a little bit of the Friday night experience back, but to be honest I’m just happy we were blessed enough to get back on the field."
Southwest Florida private and charter schools begin playing games Friday. Four of the five schools hosting games, including LaBelle High, will limit their fan capacity. First Baptist Academy, which hosts Gateway Charter, does not have plans to limit attendance.
In Collier, each athlete, cheerleader and band member can invite two members of their household to home games in which they are participating. Fans must wear face coverings and sit in marked seats that allow for social distancing.
Visiting teams are not permitted to have spectators at CCPS games. The bleachers are only big enough for the home crowd when factoring social distancing. For example, Brickzin said Palmetto Ridge will have about 600 fans because of their large band and cheerleading squad.
In Lee, the district seemed to prioritize allowing players' parents, guardians, or immediate family of the players' choice to attend games. Two tickets will be issued to each player for home and away games.
The rest of the ticket allotment for football games at district stadiums — which include Bonita Springs, Cape Coral, Cypress Lake, Dunbar, Fort Myers, East Lee County, Estero, the new Gateway High, Ida Baker, Island Coast, Lehigh, Mariner, North Fort Myers, Riverdale, and South Fort Myers — will be open to the general public through the GoFan ticketing app. Fans will be issued the tickets on their phones to allow for touchless entry.
Fans will be required to wear masks and practice social distancing in the stands.
Lee County athletic director David LaRosa did not respond to messages for comment.
Lee County marching bands, which will be limited to 50 members, and cheerleading squads will also be able to pre-purchase two tickets each to their school's home games. The bands, which can perform on the field at halftime, will spread out in the stands while the cheerleaders will be spread out across the track on the home side of the stadium and won't be performing stunts.
Concessions stands will be open with only pre-packaged items available for sale in both counties.
The Lee County district has yet to announce a plan to live stream athletic events.
For volleyball matches, in an effort to keep capacity to 100 people in gyms across Lee County, players will receive two tickets for each home and away game through GoFan. There will be no ticket allotment for the general public.
—Naples Daily News Sports Writer Alex Martin contributed to this article