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Set to Reopen, No Fans Allowed in Memorial Field Per PIAA and State Guidelines

by on August 03, 2020 3:06 PM

After waiting nearly two years for the completion of the Memorial Field renovation project, fans will most likely have to wait even longer to enjoy the new-look venue following a PIAA announcement last week.

The PIAA, which effectively reiterated ongoing guidelines and rulings by the state health department, noted that no fans will be allowed to attend sporting events during the fall sports calendar. Currently only 250 people total are allowed inside a stadium, arena or facility under the state's green county guidelines. That number includes athletes, coaches and support staffs.

According to state guidance on Pre-K to 12 sports:

"Any sports-related activities in Yellow or Green phased counties must adhere to the gathering limitations set forth by the Governor’s Plan for Phased Reopening (25 in yellow, 250 outdoors and 25 indoors in green) and the facility as a whole may not exceed 50% of total occupancy otherwise permitted by law. During the Yellow and Green phases of reopening, sports-related activities at the PK-12 level are limited to student athletes, coaches, officials, and staff only. The addition of visitors and spectators will be contingent upon future health conditions within the state and local communities."

The PIAA Board of Directors is scheduled to meet in late August just days before the start of the high school football season, which in theory could allow for an amendment to such guidelines if the state were to change its stance in the coming weeks. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has, as of Monday, given no indications that the state's general health and safety guidelines as it pertains to gathering sizes are slated to change anytime soon.

State House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, R-Bellefonte, and 62 other House Republicans sent a letters to Gov. Tom Wolf and the PIAA on Monday requesting that parents be allowed in the stands for high school games.

“At a time when folks have had the five-months-long experience of social distancing and protecting themselves and others from a contagious virus, it makes no sense that people might be less safe sitting in the football stands or around the high school track at a soccer match, with appropriate modifications, than in the aisles of their local mega retailer,” the letter to Wolf stated.

The letter to the PIAA reminded the association it is an independent agency with the ability to come up with a solution.

“The parents of these students have supported their children and, oftentimes, the school sports team in various ways during the student’s journey and there is a deep satisfaction from the ability to watch their loved ones compete in something they value," it said.

As for State College Area High School, no fans would be an unfortunate footnote for a region that has waited a long time to finally reopen its historic field. After playing last season on the South Track field of the newly rebuilt high school, the Little Lions were excited to return to Memorial Field to play in front of their friends and family.

But like so many things in 2020, those plans have been altered.

"We, like the PIAA and everyone else in the state, as well as the country for that matter, are all trying to figure things out," SCASD Athletic Director Chris Weakland said.

"We all have the goal to not only provide our kids and families an opportunity to participate in meaningful and healthy activities, but also do that in a safe manner that is respectful to others and our community as a whole. The PIAA's guidelines are a positive step in the right direction by laying out some common understandings for safe play that all schools would want to adopt. It is a positive step on a journey of many steps however.

"As far as Memorial Field, we are so proud of our facility and all of the upgrades within the stadium. We cannot wait for all of our athletes, coaches, cheerleaders, marching band, student body, families and all of our fans to enjoy everything the new Memorial Field will have to offer. Although I understand the decision by the governor to not allow spectators at this time, we will work hard to provide the best experience for our athletes and coaches."

An interesting wrinkle, Memorial Field has long been the centerpiece for fans and onlookers walking through downtown State College on fall Friday nights, leaning on the surrounding fences or gathering in Sidney Friedman Parklet. While the PIAA is prohibiting fans from entering the stadium, there's only so much the school district can do about fans gathering effectively outside of its jurisdiction.

"As Memorial Field is surrounded by public property, I am not sure what we are able to do in the oversight of public areas," Weakland added.

A proposed ordinance set to be considered by State College Borough Council on Tuesday night would restrict gatherings in borough parks and municipal property to no more than 25 people.



Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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