Well I’ve done it. I have ventured back into the realm of attending live sporting events. Earlier this month Sporting Kansas City announced that they would be welcoming 14% of the capacity of Children’s Mercy Park back to the stadium for the team’s upcoming matches. The first of those matches took place Tuesday night in front of 2,300 socially distanced fans according to the team.
The decision to allow fans into the stadium was a bit of a controversial one and rightfully so as Kansas cases of COVID-19 continue to rise and Wyandotte County (home of Children’s Mercy Park) recently announced that youth sports were not going to be allowed to take place for the Fall season.
The team told us that they had many safety protocols in place to keep players and fans safe, including mandatory mask wearing, and I decided that I would trust them. The tickets were only offered to season ticket members through a lottery system. When I received the email that I could purchase tickets I jumped on the opportunity. The rules were that I had to purchase tickets in either the section that I usually sit in or the one right next to it.
For me that was the option of section 101 or 102. After that I was able to purchase the same number of tickets that I have normally for my season tickets (2). The options for two seats together were all on one end of a row with groups of four tickets on the other end of the row. There were two empty rows of seats behind each group of two or four to ensure that fans’ seats would be at least 6 feet away from anyone to the side and 8 feet from anyone in front of or behind them.
The first safety measure that was in place was that entry for the event was timed based on where your seats were in the stadium. For me that meant that I was to arrive between 5:45 and 6:00 and was told to enter the stadium at the gates closest to my seats. Arriving almost 2 hours before the 7:30 kickoff on a 90+ degree night wearing a mask wasn’t a great plan, but it did ensure that there was not a crowd of people waiting at the gates to get through.
Upon arrival we were sent to parking spots that were all socially distanced by having an empty spot on both sides of each car. Tailgating was prohibited to ensure that fans didn’t group together in the parking lots before entering the stadium. When my assigned time came I reported to my designated entry point.
The great news was that due to the timed entry there was absolutely no line to get in. I was able to walk right up to the first worker that checked through the now mandated clear bag holding my possessions. (Heads up ladies apparently a wallet in your clear bag is a no-no! We were stopped by three different people saying that our small card/money carrying wallet was not allowed in! We eventually were told it was okay as long as we put it in our pocket?!)
After our bag was checked we were able to proceed through the new walk through metal detectors and avoided having to be close to someone using a handheld metal detector as we had to do in the past.
Once we were deemed safe to proceed we went to the next dot on the ground for the next check. Temperatures. This was also completely hands free. I was asked to hold the inside of my wrist up to a machine and it took my temp. 97.5 so I was good to go to the next dot on the ground to have my ticket scanned. Again, there was no other person involved. I was asked to pull up the ticket on my phone and place it under a scanner in another machine. The light turned green and I was officially able to enter the stadium. All of these protocols were easy to follow and quick moving without anyone having to get too close to me or my things.
Once inside there were very clearly marked arrows on the ground to show the direction of foot traffic. We were encouraged to order any food or beverages on our mobile device to have even less contact with other people. All concessions, as well as Sporting Style stores, were cashless. I did use mobile ordering, but it didn’t really help much as my order wasn’t looked at before I got there so I did have to talk to some workers at the concessions area. However, I was masked, they were masked and there were clear plastic dividers in place to avoid as much germ transfer as possible.
At that point I went to my seat and tried to enjoy the game. I will say that for the most part it looked as though people were staying socially distanced from others. Mask wearing was kind of another story. The overhead announcers said many times that wearing a mask was mandatory when not eating and drinking and not doing so could warrant removal from the stadium.
It is just too easy in a stadium setting to eat or drink all the time and not have a mask on. I think most people were trying to be respectful and follow the rules, but at one point late in the game I could see 11 people in the two sections closest to me that either just didn’t have their mask on at all or had it on incorrectly. This is definitely something that needs to be addressed and enforced to ensure that people stay as safe as possible.
After going through all of those new safety protocols I would say this as a take-away. I felt safe. I think that the organization has done as good a job as possible to make sure people are safe to attend. Is it perfect? Probably not. Can they ensure that there won’t be someone in attendance that is COVID positive and not know it? Nope. Will everyone agree that fans should be in attendance? Definitely not! Was it good to be back out there? Absolutely! Would I do it again if given the chance? For sure!