Metro Conference protocol impacts sports fan attendance

Jimmy Gow, Reporter

Metro conference schools agreed to restrict fan attendance at school sporting events to immediate family members only this season, based on advice of Sarpy County health officials.

“I feel that the crowds should be limited down to parents,” former football player Nate Brown said.  “I do think that’s a good move, because especially for big games, like the East vs. West game, it’s packed with kids.”

Students and staff seem to share similar feelings towards the new safety protocols that have been introduced.

“I’d say it’s probably not ideal, but with the current situation we’re in with the pandemic I think that’s probably what’s best for the safety of people,” defensive coordinator Wade McVey said.

Recent circumstances have made keeping people safe and keeping the economy strong at odds. Economies both domestic and international have been impacted and the school’s athletic department is no exception. According to Activities Director Jon Mauro, the East vs. West game brings in close to $15,000 in admission alone, and with consequential lack of fan attendance, the school can no longer rely on the game’s revenue.

“We’re going to take a pretty substantial hit financially in the athletic department,” Mauro said.

A lack of funding may have a direct impact on players this season as well.

“That money allows us to buy equipment and the facility upgrades and things that we need,” Mauro said. “We may have to push off uniform rotations a year, we may have to limit what people can buy–the basics, the things you have to have, not necessarily the things you want to have.”

Though, Mauro also said fall sports are not the school’s only revenue source. “Platinum sponsorships” with businesses around the Bellevue Area, which can be seen on the billboards on the football field and in the South Gym, provide additional income.

“There’ll be some revenue from our booster club, but for us, in this district, in this school, our biggest revenue stream is fan attendance,” Mauro said.

“I’d say it’s probably not ideal, but with the current situation we’re in with the pandemic I think that’s probably what’s best for the safety of people.”

— defensive coordinator Wade McVey

Limited occupancy, for some, is a worthy goal, but how will that be achieved? The school will be introducing a “purchasing permit” for families of the players.

“You keep this yellow pass all year,” Mauro said. “It allows you to purchase tickets at whatever event is written on the card.”

Each sport and each team will have their own purchasing permits. Players will receive a permit which will allow the purchase of up to four tickets for their family.

Coaches won’t let the necessary hassle of social distancing and wearing masks get in the way of leading their teams.

“We’ve been doing that all summer long,” McVey said. “We actually wear masks at practice.”

Cheerleading is not out of reach of safety protocols either. Cheerleaders will be wearing masks, social distancing, and refraining from touching each other unless doing stunts.

“I understand the safety precautions with COVID due to recent situations, but I’m just glad that it’s opened back up,” cheerleader Morgan Smilko said.  “But when it’s reduced to barely anyone, just close family members, it’s not really a crowd leading kind of situation.”

Senior right tackle Adam Johson shared a similar sentiment towards restrictions on fan attendance during the upcoming season. He anticipates the crowd restrictions will create a different experience for players.

“We won’t have the students making the chants and it won’t be as loud as it typically is,” Johnson said.

Johnson said he is not sure that he will be able to play a full season, but he won’t let that stop him from enjoying being part of the team.

“I’m a senior,” Johnson said. “This is my final year to play. My final chance to get out there and put on the shoulder pads one last time. I’m just excited to create some memories and spend time with other football players.”

Fans fill the Bellevue East stadium for the 2019 East-West game. The 2020 game will have a fraction of the fans due to COVID-19. (Larissa Hayes)