HUNTINGTON — After months of speculation, Marshall football fans finally got some anticipated news toward a 2020 gameday experience on Tuesday afternoon.
Marshall Athletic Director Mike Hamrick announced that fans will be allowed at Joan C. Edwards Stadium in a limited capacity for all six home football games in the 2020 season, starting with the Sept. 5 opener against Eastern Kentucky.
“We are thrilled to be able to have our loyal and passionate fan base in attendance for our six home games in 2020,” Hamrick said. “We worked diligently and deliberately to create a plan that will allow us to proceed safely and take care of our season ticket-holders, students, staff and visitors. We will have a minimal amount of additional tickets available, but the best way to guarantee a seat is through the purchase of season tickets.”
A set percentage was not released in terms of fan estimates, but it is expected that the per-game number will be in the vicinity of 11,000 to 13,000, which is in the 25 to 30% range of the stadium’s seating capacity of 38,000-plus.
Under the university’s plan, season ticket holders, students, players’ families and visiting fans will be permitted to attend; there may be a limited amount of single-game tickets available as well.
Tickets for games will also be delivered in a digital and mobile format five days prior to gameday, according to Marshall’s ticket office.
To comply with university, state and local guidelines, there will be several aspects of the gameday experience that change significantly to ensure the safety of those attending.
Most notably, as of now, tailgating will not be permitted on university properties, which includes seven different lots noted in the release, including the popular West Lot.
“There will be no tailgating,” Hamrick said. “That came down from the state.”
According to the release, the parking lots will open two hours prior to kickoff and fans will not be allowed to assemble in the various lots. However, tailgating could be revisited if guidelines permit later in the season.
All fans attending games must wear a mask at all times while inside Joan C. Edwards Stadium. The mask/face covering rule includes spectator areas and sky suites.
Social distancing protocols include no groups larger than six tickets being permitted in the stands. Those groups will have the row in front and behind them empty. Groups will also have two seats to the left and two seats to the right of them empty to ensure proper social distancing while watching games.
Vendors will be removed from the concourse area for distancing purposes and concession stand lines will be marked. Restrooms will have one entry point and one exit point. Hand sanitizer stations will also be present in the concourse.
Elevators will be limited to two individuals, but families — those living in the same household — may ride together. Stairwells to sky suites will be utilized as well.
As expected, there will be a no re-entry policy in effect for the 2020 season.
Tuesday’s announcement came after months of work by Hamrick and his staff, which includes the university’s medical staff and Scott Morehouse, who is in charge of facilities and gameday operations.
Contingency plans started being put together in early May with many different scenarios envisioned with Morehouse and his staff.
“The problem was that things kept changing, but we stayed the course and kept chopping away at it,” Hamrick said. “Finally, we’re where we are today.”
Having fans at Joan C. Edwards Stadium was important to Hamrick for many reasons, but especially important considering this is the 50th season of Marshall football since the 1970 Marshall plane crash.
While the schedule has seen plenty of changes due to COVID-19, Hamrick’s goal was to give fans a full slate of six home games and he achieved that goal last week with the announcements of the Sept. 19 contest against Appalachian State and the final announcement, which was the Sept. 5 home opener against Eastern Kentucky.
Concern grew in terms of the ability for fans to be on-site for games after West Virginia University announced on Thursday that fans would not be allowed to attend the Mountaineers’ Sept. 12 opener — also against Eastern Kentucky — at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown.
“It was monumental to be able to get this information out to our fans,” Hamrick said. “This situation is very fluid, but we look forward to seeing fans at the stadium.”