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NFL team unveils plans for bringing back fans, including timed entrances, attendance limits

Fans and workers probably will have to keep their distance at NFL games this season. (David J. Phillip/AP)

No one knows when fans will be allowed back into stadiums for live sporting events amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, but when they are, they could encounter a game-day experience unlike anything they have seen.

Miami Dolphins President/CEO Tom Garfinkel laid out his team’s plans Monday on “Good Morning America,” describing how going to an NFL game will become much like ordering takeout from a restaurant or grocery shopping during the pandemic. All fans would wear masks, and colored spots on the ground outside the stadium would indicate proper social distancing as spectators wait to enter. Food would be ordered from the seat and then picked up at the designated concession stand, eliminating the need for lines.

Entering and exiting the stadium also would change to give everyone more space.

“We would have times to come in for security at different gates so people would be separated out, in terms of when they enter the stadium,” Garfinkel said. “We would exit the stadium much like a church environment, where each row exits so people aren’t filing out all at the same time in a herd.”

To accomplish this, capacity might have to be limited, ABC reported. Instead of the 65,000 fans Hard Rock Stadium can hold, attendance could be held to only 15,000 for the 2020 season so everyone can keep a proper distance. Left unsaid was how the Dolphins would handle this limitation considering that the team’s season ticket base most likely exceeds 15,000. (In 2012, for example, it was 30,000.)

According to ESPN, Hard Rock Stadium is the first public facility in the nation to hold “STAR” accreditation from the Global Biorisk Advisory Council, which is a division of ISSA, a worldwide trade association for the cleaning industry. That means stadium officials have plans in place for cleaning, disinfecting and infectious-disease prevention to control the spread of a virus such as the coronavirus.

“When our fans, players and staff are able to return to Hard Rock Stadium, we want them to have peace of mind that we’re doing everything we can to create the safest and healthiest environment possible,” Garfinkel said. “We didn’t want to create our own standard; we wanted to be accountable to the most credible third-party standard that exists. Working with the GBAC ensures compliances with critical guidelines for the highest standard of cleanliness, and it is our hope that other venues will follow suit as we navigate through these unprecedented times.”