SoFi and Allegiant stadia sans fans in 2020
The National Football League (NFL) American football franchise the Los Angeles Rams has spelt it out in clear terms that its new SoFi Stadium will be at limited or no capacity in 2020, while season tickets will not be possible for its debut campaign.
SoFi Stadium is a stadium and entertainment complex under construction in Inglewood, California, United States. Planned to open in July 2020, the stadium will serve as the home for the Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers of the National Football League (NFL).
The Rams have become the latest NFL team to outline their plans for the new season amid COVID-19, stating their intentions in a letter to Stadium Seat License (SSL) holders.
If fans are allowed into the stadium fold, the SSL holders will be accorded priority for single game tickets while season tickets will be deferred to the 2021 season. All previous single game ticket purchases and transferred tickets will be canceled.
In May, it was announced that SoFi Stadium, which the Rams will share with the Chargers, would launch on August 14 its first official event when the Rams host the New Orleans Saints in pre-season.
The stadium was earlier due to open on July 25-26 with two Taylor Swift concerts but these were canceled due to COVID-19 outbreak in whose maelstrom US is caught. Further concerts from Guns N’ Roses on August 8 and Tim McGraw on September 4 were also canceled because of the deadly respiratory disease.
In its letter, the Rams said it anticipates that the NFL will cancel preseason completely, which translates to the fact that the first NFL game at SoFi Stadium would be the team’s Week 1 Sunday Night Football opener against the Dallas Cowboys on September 13.
The Rams also made it clear in its letter that the process for SSL holders to purchase individual game tickets for 2020 will be outlined at a later date. In the meantime, SSL holders can choose to opt out or in for the 2020 season.
If SSL holders opt out, it would mean that they are in no mood to attend games this season even if limited entry of fans are allowed. SSL holders have been given time till July 31 to opt out, but they will retain all of their non-game day benefits and will not be impacted long-term by this decision. Irrespective of the fact whether they apply funds to 2021 or request a refund, it will have no impact on their benefits.
If they wish to stay on for the 2020 season, SSL holders will be accorded first priority for individual tickets, should fans be allowed into SoFi Stadium? Any funds paid toward 2020 season tickets will be left on accounts to be used towards individual game tickets.
In May, NFL owners voted unanimously to provide Rams owner Stan Kroenke with an additional $500m (£393.8m/€432m) in financing to help complete the construction of SoFi Stadium. The venue’s budget is now said to have risen from an initially projected $2.2bn to between $5bn and $6bn, with the Rams currently battling with how COVID-19 will affect the cash registers for the new Inglewood stadium.
If fans are allowed into the 70,000-capacity stadium, attendances will reportedly be cut down to 15,000 to follow strict social distancing measures. The Rams have outlined how home match days are likely to look in this instance, based on Federal, State, local and NFL guidelines.
Protocols are likely to include that wearing of masks will be mandatory for fans unless actively eating or drinking. This would include inside clubs and suites. Seating blocks will be set up to ensure social distancing, with separation of six feet between blocks. Seating block sizes will vary and be able to fit in between one and 10 guests.
Purchase points will be strictly cashless. ‘Reverse ATMs’ will be available on each concourse for those who need to convert cash to gift cards. Hand sanitizing stations will be located across the venue, while health screening protocols are likely to include a waiver for all game attendees to sign before entering as well as temperature checks will be done for staff and potentially attendees.
Earlier this week, the New York Giants and New York Jets announced their games at MetLife Stadium will be held behind closed doors until further notice to meet COVID-19 regulations in the State of New Jersey.
The New England Patriots last week stated they expect to run Gillette Stadium at 20 percent capacity. The Baltimore Ravens earlier became the first team in the league to specify its intended attendance cap if fans are allowed at games during the 2020 season, with the Jacksonville Jaguars following their steps.
City leaders have also apprised the Philadelphia Eagles that they should not expect fans’ attendance in Lincoln Financial Field this season.
Allegiant Stadium to follow suit
Coronavirus has spoilt the party for the Raiders franchise set to move into the plush palace Allegiant Stadium.
Allegiant Stadium is a domed stadium under construction, located in Paradise, Nevada, United States. It will serve as the home stadium for the National Football League (NFL)’s Las Vegas Raiders and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) Rebels college football team.
Construction of the $1.8 billion Allegiant Stadium began on November 13, 2017, and is expected to be completed in July 2020.
Las Vegas owner Mark Davis gave the clearest hint that Allegiant Stadium’s 65,000 seats will remain empty on game days this season amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Davis stated, “If you asked me right now, I would say we will go with no fans in the stands. Either all of the fans who have purchased tickets will be allowed to attend games or none of them will. The latter is the far more likely scenario.”
Davis added that there was absolutely no question of allowing the team to play before a packed to capacity stadium.
He added, “The only way I believe that can happen is if they delayed the start of the season rather than trying to start it right now in the middle of the uncertainty we have. I believe we could get all the way up to November and still get a full season and playoffs and Super Bowl in, and if we went to November, we may have a better feel for what’s going on with the virus with some type of inoculation or something of that nature that could give us a better feel for the safety of the players, fans and everyone else.”
Davis made it clear that he will not attend games if fans are not allowed in the stadium. A disappointing moment for the man who is on the verge of taking the franchise into a new era.
“We’ve wanted to have our phenomenal stadium and this practice facility, and everything was going so well for the Raider organization. All our dreams were coming true here in Las Vegas. The whole city has just been phenomenal and then real life steps in the way,” he lamented.
Coronavirus has not only spelt doom for the whole world but also on the sports world and the sports calendar is full of canceled events and postponements as organizations and leagues scramble to come up with safe and practical ways to return to action. Most of those plans have involved playing in empty venues.
The NFL has offered no specific guidance on attendance, leaving it to the choice of individual teams and local Governments. At least four teams have announced specific plans for reduced capacities, and it’s unlikely any teams will allow full house.
Davis said that there was a lack of cohesive policy after a summer in which the league office mandated a level playing field. When one team facility was ordered closed by the local Government, all had to shut down. Not every team was able to have draft prospects visit and do a physical in person, so none could.
“Every damn thing was on an equitable basis and all based on the least fortunate club in every circumstance. And then for some reason, and I can’t read their minds, they decided when it comes to attendance it was up to the teams and their local Governments and the league wasn’t going to be a part of it,” he fumed.
Owners voted 31-1 last month to clear out the first eight rows in all stadiums to create distance between fans and players and allow space to sell ads to help make up for anticipated revenue losses.
Davis opposed the whole arrangement – “When that happened, a lot of teams didn’t have a problem with that because they’ve got extra seats where they can move people around. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, we’re sold out. We don’t have any place to move people. That made a very difficult situation for me. I can’t tell one fan, let alone 8,000, that they’re not going to be able to go to that first inaugural game in a stadium they helped build. I just can’t do it, and I don’t know of a fair way to put, say, 20 percent of the fans in the stadium. It’s just not the vision we had for the stadium and for Las Vegas.”
Davis said if the Raiders move forward with no fans, they would do an ‘Inaugural Season 2.0’ in 2021 to give the city and stadium a celebration in the real sense of the term.
The first regular-season game at Allegiant Stadium is scheduled for September 21 on ‘Monday Night Football’ against the Saints.
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