‘Hard’ rules for fans in Hard Rock Stadium


Hard Rock Stadium College Football Championship Game with fans Image: Hard Rock Stadium

Almost 15,000 physically distanced fans were welcomed to the fold of Hard Rock Stadium (US), home of the National Football League’s (NFL’s) Miami Dolphins, on January 11th, 2021, for the 2021 College Football Playoff National Championship.

The game saw Alabama trounce Ohio State 52-24 to claim the program’s sixth national championship at the 65,000-capacity stadium, which closed the recently created drive-thru entrance for the first stage of COVID-19 vaccinations ahead of the game.

The College Football Playoff National Championship is a post-season college football bowl game, used to determine a national champion of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), which began play in the 2014 college football season.

The Miami Dolphins are a professional American football team based in the Miami metropolitan area. They compete in the National Football League (NFL) as a member team of the league’s American Football Conference East division.

Hard Rock Stadium is a multipurpose stadium located in Miami Gardens, Florida, a City north of Miami (US). It is the home stadium of the Miami Dolphins of the NFL.

Ticket holders, who were given staggered entry times, were required to maintain social distancing and wearing of face coverings was made mandatory, with the arena implementing other safety protocols to ensure the safety of the crowds amid the pandemic and rising cases across Florida as the COVID-19 storm still continues to blow fiercely in the United States.

These include a ban on tailgating in the car park, timed stadium entry, automated glove dispensers and in-depth training protocols for employees, totally cashless transactions throughout the venue, app-based mobile ordering, plexiglass barriers in premium spaces, and socially distanced seating clusters in the bowl.

Apart from this, in the hours before kick-off, nothing was left to chance and dozens of stadium employees walked through the stands sanitizing seats and handrails.

Hard Rock Stadium has been safely hosting professional and collegiate football games over the past few months, as well as an outdoor theater experience, after becoming the first stadium worldwide to receive GBAC STAR accreditation for maintaining the highest standards of cleanliness.

Through its collaboration with Centerplate, the leading hospitality partner to North America’s premier sports entertainment venues, the experience featured an online order-ahead food and beverage option via the stadium app, with distinct pickup-only locations in the stadium.

There was also a limited concessions menu featuring only the most popular items and more pre-packaged offerings, to reduce wait time and crowding on the concourses, so people could return to their seats faster.

Hard Rock Stadium reopened with a 13,000-capacity limit for the Dolphins’ home opener against the NFL team Buffalo Bills on September 20th, 2020.

In October last year, Tom Garfinkel, President, Miami Dolphins, noted that the team had been mulling social distancing options back in May 2020 and had arrived at a “13,000 capacity based on 6ft social distancing” in the 65,000-capacity venue.

Prior to that, back in March 2020, the Dolphins organization “got creative” about alternative event ideas based on smaller, COVID-safe crowds. These included the drive-in movie theater set-up in the stadium and an outdoor theater space alongside the stadium, where it has also held graduations.

The Dolphins also launched Gameday Theater at Hard Rock Stadium and a Virtual Membership Pass. The Gameday Theater uses the existing outdoor theater set-up that has been operating since June 2020 to broadcast Dolphins home and away games on the complex’s fountain plaza videoboard, providing a self-contained, socially distanced entertainment environment for 386 people.

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