- About 25,000 fans will attend the Super Bowl, far fewer than the stadium can normally hold.
- The NFL will pass out gift bags with N95 face masks and will require cashless payments.
- Despite the precautions, experts still warn of the risk of spreading COVID-19.
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The Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, is going to look different than it has in previous years when it hosts the Super Bowl matchup between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.
Fewer fans, free face masks, and cashless payments are just some of the things making the NFL’s 55th Super Bowl a little different this year amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re definitely going to make the best of it and put on the best Super Bowl that has ever occurred even if it’s under some of the most difficult circumstances,” Tampa Mayor Jane Castor told Insider.
Stadiums are usually filled to capacity for the Super Bowl, but this year, only about a third of the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa will be used, with about 25,000 fans total spread out over 75,000 seats, Erik Finkelstein, the senior director of NFL events, said in a video. The stadium won’t appear mostly empty, though, as the NFL made 30,000 cutouts of people to put in the seats.
Of those in attendance, 7,500 will be fully vaccinated medical workers, mostly from the Tampa and central Florida area. The NFL gave them free tickets to “thank and honour them for their continued extraordinary service during the pandemic,” according to a press release.
Super Bowl attendees will present their tickets on a mobile device. Once inside, they will receive a complimentary gift bag with COVID-19 essentials, including an N95 face mask, antibacterial wipes, and hand sanitizer, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
Past the entrance, are signs asking people to keep their face masks on at all times (except to eat or drink at their assigned seat), wash their hands, and maintain distance from others. Finkelstein said painted paths with arrows will direct the flow of crowds around the stadium concourse, and painted circles outside concession stands will indicate how far apart people should stand.
Concession stands will be open, but cashless payments are required. Reverse ATMs that take cash in exchange for a card are available, just in case.
And fans won’t be getting a close look at the players, like normal. They will be seated at least 20 feet away from either team’s sideline to maintain distance between the fans and players.
“It’s a unique year that we’re all working through with all of the protocols related to COVID,” Finkelstein said. “We’re really excited to be part of such a historic event on so many levels.”
Despite the precautions the NFL has taken, health and safety experts said the risk of spreading COVID-19 remains, especially when fans are away from their seat, CNBC reported.
The outside of the stadium won’t look much different, except some empty parking spots and no tailgating, according to the mayor.
The Super Bowl Experience, which is generally held in a convention centre in the days leading up to the big game, has been ongoing along the 3-mile riverwalk in Tampa this week and last. Tickets to the experience, which include games, concessions and events, are free this year, “so fans that don’t have a ticket can still experience the Super Bowl,” said Rob Higgins of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission.
The mayor said an outdoor face mask requirement has been put in place in Tampa specifically for the Super Bowl. “The simple step of wearing a face mask can make all the difference,” she said.
The city is planning to have an influx of visitors for the event, though not as many as it had planned on a year ago. “We were expecting a large economic boom from the Super Bowl, and we’re not going to realise that,” the mayor said.
Still, Higgins said the community has taken a hit from the lack of tourism in the last year. “This is a shot in the arm when our community needs it the most,” he said.
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