How each NFL stadium is planning on handling fans

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With the coronavirus pandemic recently topping 150,000 deaths in the United States and no immediate end in sight, the future of nonessential entertainment events like sports remains uncertain. While the NBA restart appears to be off to a smooth start with zero players testing positive for COVID-19 in the league’s Disney World bubble, the MLB’s venture back into playing is going far differently.

That’s leading some to wonder what will happen with the NFL, the next sports league scheduled to resume on Sept. 10. Unlike the NBA and MLB, the NFL has not instituted a ban on fans attending the games, though the league is still finalizing COVID-19 protocols. As of now, NFL policy allows for fans to attend games if the team’s local jurisdiction allows it, but they must wear masks and may have to sign waiver forms.

Mention of local jurisdiction is key because with the pandemic affecting different parts of the country in varying levels, teams around the league will almost certainly have distinct approaches to fans by the time to season begins.

Here’s a look at what every team has planned for fans so far.

NFC West

San Francisco 49ers—The team emailed season ticket holders warning them to expect reduced capacity games at the 49ers Levi’s Stadium in 2020. According to a 2020 FAQ page on the team’s official website, “capacity will be determined by governmental regulation.”

Seattle Seahawks—Discussions are ongoing behind closed doors, but it appears likely that seating capacity will be reduced at CenturyLink Field. According to Tacoma News Tribune reporter Gregg Bell, “that plan could involve leaving entire rows or every other seat empty, and decisions on which season-ticket holders would get which games as part of amended packages.”

Los Angeles Rams—The newly constructed Sofi Stadium will operate at limited or no capacity in 2020, the Rams announced. Season tickets will also not be made available.

Arizona Cardinals—The team said there was a “very low” likelihood that State Farm Stadium will be at capacity during the 2020-21 season. “We are developing contingency plans for the different scenarios and potential stadium seating configurations,” the team said.

NFC North

Green Bay Packers—Plans for the season are still being finalized, and season ticket holders will have the option to “opt in” or “opt out” on the chance to reserve tickets. Packers CEO Mark Murphy recently said he expects no more than 10,000 to 12,000 fans at the storied Lambeau Field, which holds more than 80,000 people.

Minnesota Vikings—In a letter to season ticket holders, the Vikings said: “We can acknowledge at this time that if we are allowed to play in front of fans, games will be at a significantly reduced capacity and include a different in-stadium experience.” Season ticket holders have an option to opt out of their 2020 plan.

Chicago Bears—Season ticket packages for 2020 have been scrapped, and the Bears said that if authorities allow Solider Field to welcome fans this season, seating capacity will be reduced to allow for social distancing. 

Detroit Lions—The Lions told season ticket holders that the team is “anticipating a reduced seating capacity, with socially distanced seating,” at Ford Field. “Capacity restrictions have not yet been determined by government officials,” the letter added.

NFC East

Philadelphia Eagles—City officials earlier this month said that while the city of Philadelphia currently prohibits outdoor events involving more than 50 people—including at Lincoln Financial Field—”this is a fluid situation, and this policy is under constant review.”

Dallas Cowboys—The Cowboys recently canceled season tickets for the 2020 season, instead planning to offer a “limited number” of single-game tickets to season ticket holders first, should they opt in for them. AT&T Stadium has one of the largest capacities in the NFL, at over 100,000 fans, meaning there may be more space for social distancing.

New York GiantsMetLife Stadium is one of the few venues so far to get an outright ban of fans during the 2020 season. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy issued an executive order saying events at the arena wouldn’t welcome fans “until further notice.”

Washington Football Team—While exact capacity remains unclear for the newly renamed Washington Football Team, it told season ticket holders they can defer to the 2021 season or get a full refund, hinting at the possibility of no fans.

NFC South

New Orleans Saints—”The cancellation of the preseason will allow the Saints organization additional lead-up time to prepare and provide proper safety protocols for the restart of the NFL season,” the Saints said. The team is offering season ticket holders the opportunity to defer seats or receive a full refund.

Atlanta Falcons—The Falcons told season ticket holders that Mercedes-Benz Stadium will officially welcome somewhere between 10,000 to 20,000 fans during the 2020-21 season.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers—Raymond James Stadium will have a limited capacity for the 2020 season, the Bucs told season ticket holders, meaning not all will be able to attend games during the 2020 season. An exact capacity number has yet to be determined.

Carolina Panthers—The team is still working out its capacity plans, but it will range anywhere from 20,000 fans to no fans at all. Season ticket holders have been informed and have the opportunity to defer or refund.

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens—The Ravens will allow no more than 14,000 fans at M&T Bank Stadium in 2020. The possibility still remains that no fans will be welcomed at all, depending on the status of the virus. Season tickets can be deferred.

Pittsburgh Steelers—The team has started canceling and refunding single-game ticket purchases for 2020. “We will be making adjustments to our seating configuration at Heinz Field this year to allow for social distancing,” Burt Lauten, Steelers director of communications, said in a statement. “We are working through scenarios for limited-capacity plans to provide options for our season ticket holders to attend games this year.”

Cleveland Browns—A Browns spokesperson said the situation is “fluid,” as the team would like to welcome fans to FirstEnergy Stadium while also knowing it needs to abide to local mandates. The Browns gave season ticket holders the option of opting out for the 2020 season.

Cincinnati Bengals—Approval pending, the team expects attendance to be “greatly reduced.” Seating will be rearranged, and tailgating is prohibited. Season ticket holders have the option to opt out for the season.

AFC West

Kansas City Chiefs—Arrowhead Stadium, known for its immense volume, will be a lot quieter this year as fan capacity will be reduced. The team said individual tickets will likely only be available “for the first few games of the regular season,” after which season ticket holders would take over.

Denver Broncos—In a letter to season ticket holders, the Broncos said: “The game day experience this season at Empower Field at Mile High will look and feel very different.” An official capacity for fans has yet to be determined by officials.

Las Vegas Raiders—The recently relocated Las Vegas Raiders (formerly of Oakland) will likely not welcome fans to its newly constructed Allegiant Stadium. “It’s no definite, but it’s 90% no,” Vic Tafur, Raiders beat writer for the The Athletic, said, adding that team owner Mark Davis’ plan is to “have an inaugural season 2.0 next year and do the ribbon-cutting in 2021. He said if fans can’t go, he won’t go.”

Los Angeles Chargers—The Chargers share a stadium with the Rams. It will will operate at limited or no capacity.

AFC East

New England Patriots—The Patriots recently announced Gillette Stadium is expected to operate at about 20% of its total capacity (it usually holds about 66,000 fans). “Tickets will be arranged in blocks of 10 seats or less, and the first eight rows of stadium seats will not be used,” the Patriots said.

Buffalo Bills—Though New York state said professional sports teams would not be able to host fans during the ongoing pandemic, the Bills recently told season ticket holders that it was “still in the process of planning for the possibility of a limited amount of spectators being able to attend games for the 2020 season.” For now, all season ticket memberships are deferred until next season.

New York Jets—The Jets share MetLife Stadium with the Giants. Neither will host any fans whatsoever during the 2020 season.

Miami Dolphins—South Florida has been particularly hit badly by the pandemic. As a result, the Dolphins will not let fans attend training camp practices at Hard Rock Stadium. The team is still hopeful that a limited number of fans may be able to attend regular season games.

AFC South

Houston Texans—Houston, also hard hit by the pandemic, has not yet announced any seating restrictions, but gave season ticket holders to option to defer to next season at no cost. Those who still do attend can still use this year’s tickets, though their seats may change due to social distancing measures.

Tennessee Titans—The Titans expect to play at Nissan Stadium in Nashville with reduced capacity, writing on its website that the exact percentage will be determined at a later date.

Indianapolis Colts—Owner Jim Irsay penned a letter to fans saying that the team would welcome fans at reduced capacity in compliance with CDC guidelines for social distancing. He added that food and beverage vendors will minimize person-to-person contact, and tarps will be placed over the first eight rows closest to field for increased distancing and safety.

Jacksonville Jaguars—The Jaguars expect reduced capacity at TIAA Bank Field and refunded all season tickets. Those holders can apply those credits to season ticket purchases for 2021. The team said it was working with Ticketmaster to develop a new seating chart that allows for six feet of social distancing.

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