Nick McAdam, Editor-in-Chief
The Empire 8 Conference, in a collaborative statement with New York State, announced that spectators will be allowed to attend collegiate sporting events under strict state guidelines starting on April 2.
According to the social media post from the Empire 8, all participating institutions would be able to welcome spectators to the campus under regulations that fall under the respective institution’s discretion, based on regulations set forth by local and state officials.
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The athletic department has released a PDF file indicating Utica’s participation regarding spectators. For indoor sporting events, capacity will be limited to 65 attendees for only students; meaning that no parents or guardians will be allowed in attendance. Outdoor events will be capped off at 200 attendees and, for these events, families will be allowed pending that they follow several COVID-19 protocols, including the health screening.
“Upon arrival, all fans must also show their ID, get their temperature taken by a staff member, and fill out a health questionnaire/contact tracing form” the memo read. “Fans must wear a face-covering throughout the duration of the game, except for breaks when eating and drinking. In addition, per New York State guidelines, only clear, see-through bags will be permitted to avoid additional contact via bag checks. Please do not attend an event if you are feeling unwell or have come in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.”
Another email from the athletics department sent to the college community said Utica College will permit 400 fans to the men’s hockey UCHC semi-final on April 2. Tickets for the game will be $8 on a first-come, first-serve basis.
“All individuals entering the building must wear an acceptable face covering at all times; must show documentation of full COVID-19 vaccination or a negative PCR test result from within the 72 hours of game time or a negative rapid antigen test result from within six hours of game time; and must adhere to all other health and safety guidelines,” according to the email.
The news comes shortly after Utica College’s first football game of the year against Alfred University. The team won by a score of 30-17 with nearly 50 spectators gathering on the lawn across from Charles A. Gaetano Stadium to watch the game.
At this game, students such as Sophie Langdon indicated that spectators should be allowed at sporting events, pending that they follow COVID-19 protocol. A full week later, that wish came true.
“Sports are big in a lot of people’s lives whether it be the players, coaches, family members or even fans,” Langdon said. “Having there be a final or first season for players is something special for them. I know a lot of people who are already planning to go to sporting events this semester who are really excited. I also know players who are even more excited to get back to doing what they love in a more normal setting.”
Others think the announcement only confirms the privilege given to athletics at Utica College. From the perspective of the theater department and Junior Hannah Destefano, the news is unfair and unjustified. The theater department recently put on a showing of “Something Rotten,” a performance in which actors had to wear full-face coverings; something a portion of athletes is not required to do. The showing was also sent out virtually, meaning that very few in-person spectators were allowed inside the theater.
“I say we follow what the President said initially and we get through this semester unscathed,” Destefano said. “It’s particularly upsetting when I see pictures of basketball players playing the game without a mask when our performers have to wear layers of clothing plus a face-covering. I don’t know what I should expect though. Sports on a nationwide scale seems to get preferential treatment and that happens to be the case at the college.”
Destefano extended further indicating that nobody from the theater department received a positive test this semester. On the other hand, the athletic department, primarily those from the women’s basketball team, was responsible for the college’s sharp uptick in positive cases at the start of the semester.
Despite this, there will be a total of 93 athletic events happening in April with 39 more events happening in May, pending respective team qualifications in Empire 8 tournaments and potential COVID-19 restrictions.
The announcement comes almost a full calendar year after the outbreak of the virus in the United States. The last time the athletics department allowed spectators to an athletic event was before spring break of 2020, in which the college decided to cancel all sports for the remainder of the season and send all students to remote instruction.