Despite COVID-19 concerns, the season openers for both the Miami Dolphins (NFL) and the University of Miami Hurricanes will see up to 13,000 fans in the stands, as the state gives the green light to opening Hard Rock Stadium to game attendees.
The potential limit of 13,000 fans represents about 20 percent of the stadium’s capacity. The University of Miami opens against UAB on Sept. 10, while the Dolphins open Sept. 20 against the Buffalo Bills.
The Dolphins announced the measures planned to address COVID-19 concerns. Socially distanced seating clusters will be planned and enforced six feet apart, and all fans and stadium employees will be required to wear a mask when not actively eating or drinking. When entering the stadium fans will encounter mobile touchless installations with more points of entries and exits to help avoid bottlenecks at ingress/egress, with staggered gate entry and entry times listed on game tickets. (New walkthrough metal detectors with touchless security screening to allow fans to keep all items in their pockets for faster entry.) No more cash for concessions: The cashless experience will be installed food service, parking and retail. No tailgating for the 2020 season will be allowed, with parking lots open two hours before gametime. Finally, all manual faucets, toilet handles, toilets, soap dispensers and paper towel dispensers have been changed to automatic sensors to provide a touchless restroom experience.
Also a key part of the plan: Hard Rock Stadium becoming the first stadium in the world to receive GBAC STAR accreditation from the Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC), a Division of ISSA, the worldwide cleaning industry association. Hard Rock Stadium completed 20 program elements focused on cleaning, disinfection and infectious disease prevention practices to control risks associated with infectious agents. We expect to see many more venues pursue this accreditation: Chase Center, home of the Golden State Warriors (NBA), already received it.
“When we started the process back in March of exploring what a socially-distanced stadium could look like, we made the health and safety of everyone the first priority; knowing that if we felt that we couldn’t make it safe, we simply wouldn’t have fans,” said Miami Dolphins Vice Chairman and CEO Tom Garfinkel via press statement. “We’re happy that our elected officials recognize the attention to detail and diligence that we’ve put into creating a safe environment and that they made the decision to move forward with a 13,000-capacity stadium at this time.”
That capacity was determined in consultation with Gov. Ron DeSantis. The team may raise capacity further down the road if positive COVID-19 tests decline.
Dolphins players were happy to receive the news, but not everyone else was pleased:
The Dolphins’ decision angered Buffalo Bills coach Shane McDermott, whose team is Miami’s opponent in the Dolphins’ home opener.
“I think it’s honestly ridiculous that there will be, on the surface, what appears to be a playing field that’s like that — inconsistently across the league with the different away stadiums,” McDermott said Monday.
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