When March Madness kicks off later this week, the NCAA men’s Division I tournament, like so much else in the past year, will be a fraction of its usual self.
The Marion County Public Health Department late Friday afternoon released detailed risk mitigation plans for what steps Lucas Oil Stadium, Bankers Life Fieldhouse and Butler’s Hinkle Fieldhouse will take to keep fans, staff and the teams as safe from COVID-19 as possible.
Games will also be played at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum, which falls under the purview of the state. Games played in West Lafayette’s Mackey Arena and Bloomington’s Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall will be subject to their own county’s health rules.
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Measures from venue to venue differ slightly, based on the three health plans, but there are also many similarities.
Yes, there will be fans – but only up to 25% capacity. Tickets will be sold in pods of two, four or six, with pods consisting of members of a single household or people who are trusted acquaintances. Each pod will be distanced from the next. Tickets will be digital for contactless entry.
Yes, you can still buy concessions, but the food will be pre-packaged and the drinks won’t have refills. People will be asked to eat in their seats rather than congregate in the concourses, and all purchases, including merchandise, will be cashless.
Everyone in the stadiums except for those on the court will be expected to wear face masks. There will be frequent reminders over the public announcement system reminding everyone to remain masked.
Venues will be thoroughly cleaned in between games and fans will not be allowed to remain in the venues once a game has ended.
But all of these differences pale in the face of the one similarity: Just as they have for more than eight decades for every year except last year, the best college teams in the nation will vie for a national title.
Here are some of the specifics of each plan.
Butler’s Hinkle Fieldhouse
Hinkle Fieldhouse will have a total capacity of 2,500, about 225 of whom will be staff and volunteers.
Even before the game begins, ticket holders will receive a “know before you go” email. This will include information about a variety of safety measures including a provision that only clear bags and small clutches are allowed to save staff from having to physically examine people’s bags.
Fans attending one of the 16 games at Butler’s Hinkle Fieldhouse can expect to have their temperature taken at the door. Those with a temperature greater than 100.4 will not be allowed to enter.
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Food and drink will be sold on a grab-and-go model. Patrons will pay for the food while still in their seats, pick it up and then eat it back in their seats.
People who see other attendees violating the mask mandate can text the ticket office at 317-940-DOGS. Staff will issue scofflaws two verbal warnings. On the third warning, Butler or Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officers will ask the person to leave.
Bankers Life Fieldhouse
Attendance at games held in Bankers Life will not exceed 4,500 ticketed guests, which includes event staff, teams and other personnel in the building.
The building will open 60 minutes before the game starts.
Upon entering, attendees will be asked a series of COVID-19 screening questions. Bags will pass through an X-ray machine.
Bankers Life’s plan specifies that neck gaiters and bandannas are not considered acceptable face coverings. All staff will wear medical masks.
Suites will be limited to 50% capacity.
Lucas Oil Stadium
There will be no student sections sections on the court level to discourage fans from gathering in groups. The general public will be seated at least 20 feet away from play.
Ticketholders will be expected to enter through a designated gate and leave through the same gate. Everyone will undergo a verbal health screening.
The only bags allowed will be small clutch or zipped wallets, diaper bags and bags containing needed medical supplies.
Fans may not carry in banners, placards, posters or noisemakers. Suites will be limited to half capacity.
People who do not have credit cards will be able to purchase a card with money at cash to card machines in the concourse.
This plan notes that if contact tracing becomes necessary, it will be done through the information provided on the digital ticket.
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