Opelika High School athletics will have limited attendance for all fall events, athletic director Mike Pugh announced Thursday. Opelika’s football stadium will be limited to approximately 30 percent capacity, and the school’s mainstreet gym will be restricted to family members of competitors only.
Spectators at all events will be required to wear a mask and maintain at least six feet social distance from other family groups.
For Opelika football, tickets will be sold online in advance to families of competition participants — football, cheerleaders and marching band — through GoFan.com. Tickets will be limited to three per each participant’s family. Fans will then be able to purchase remaining tickets online each week through the site. Physical tickets will not be sold at the stadium.
As for visitor’s tickets, Pugh explained the setup is still fluid as of now, but the plan is for visiting fans to be able to purchase tickets through GoFan.com at approximately the same time as home fans would be able to.
Additionally, corporate sponsors will have the opportunity to renew their sponsorship by Aug. 21 to receive tickets.
Pugh explained that initially the school’s gameday people — Pugh, Opelika principal Farrell Seymore and the school’s four assistant principals — had planned to only cut capacity at Bulldog Stadium to 50 percent. Once they actually walked in the stadium, however, they realized that would not be enough.
“Safety for not only our athletes but our fans was huge for us,” Pugh said. “We wanted to see visually what it was going to look like, what the optics were going to be as well as can we get enough social distancing in here. We didn’t want it to look like one of these beach scenes or party scenes where we had just a crowd of people in there. We were trying to be very vigilant about what if it looked bad and would we have a safe environment. It was painstaking for a while there. We went from 50 percent down to 30 percent.
“The situation changes daily, and it will continue to do that. We know that. It’s going to continue to change certainly weekly if not daily.”
Volleyball is the primary fall sport that will be affected by Opelika’s gym policy. There will be a limit of four tickets per player, and visitor tickets will be limited. Tickets will also be sold online through GoFan.com.
Pugh explained the last few months have been hectic as he and the rest of the administration monitor the pandemic and try to make decisions on a situation that has changed daily.
“It’s been very hectic because things change so rapidly. Then everybody emails and calls and wants answers and wants to know this and that, but there really aren’t any. You’re planning for everything to be correct and right that we have no issues,” Pugh said. “In the back of your mind as an athletic director, it’s kind of like coaching: you hope everything’s going to turn out fine, and you plan it that way — but you also have to have in the back of your mind plan B and plan C in place.”
Opelika football will return to the field on Aug. 21 at Stanhope Elmore and will have its first home game on Sept. 4 against Sidney Lanier. For Pugh, the opportunity for Opelika’s players to return to the field can’t get here soon enough.
“Like everyone else in the world right now, you really want something to be involved with. Athletics is such a big, important part of who we are. We want sports to come back. We want our lives to be normal. We know it’s not going to be normal, so we’ve got to jump in there and try to find out what it’s going to be like,” Pugh said. “I told (football coach Erik Speakman) this morning, ‘I can’t wait. We just need to hurry up and play Friday. I don’t want something to change before Friday.’
“I feel like once we get started and start playing that everything’s going to be a lot better. It’s not going to be the same, but it will be better.”
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