The Houston Texans are set to become the latest NFL team to welcome fans back after detailing plans to welcome 13,300 spectators into NRG Stadium from this weekend.
The move will see NRG Stadium operate at around 20 per cent of its capacity, starting from Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings. Season ticket members that did not defer for the 2020 season have been given the chance to buy tickets for the Texans’ remaining seven home games, with any remaining tickets going on sale today (Tuesday).
In line with COVID-19 restrictions, all staff and fans aged 10 and older will be required to wear masks at the stadium, except while actively eating or drinking. Fans will also be required to maintain physical distancing of at least six feet apart. No tailgating will be permitted at NRG Stadium at this time, the Texans said.
The decision to welcome 13,300 fans has been made following collaboration with city, county and state officials, as well as the NFL. The Texans have worked with Harris County Sports & Convention Corporation, ASM Global, CSC and Aramark to implement the various protocols that will ensure fans can attend the game in a safe and socially distanced manner.
Distance markers and queue lines will be placed around NRG Stadium, with full mobile ticketing and cashless transactions also set to be implemented. Enhanced cleaning and disinfecting measures will be taken, along with additional food preparation and serving safety protocols at open concession areas. More than 475 hand sanitising stations will also be installed throughout the stadium.
Texans president Jamey Rootes said: “The health and safety of our fans, our staff, our team and our community have been and will remain our priority throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We look forward to welcoming our home-field advantage back and resuming our cherished Texans gameday traditions. We have been working tirelessly to make changes and implement protocols at NRG Stadium to ensure a safe environment. We are grateful for the opportunity to experience this great season alongside the best fans in the NFL at NRG Stadium.”
The Texans join a number of other NFL teams in allowing a proportion of fans into their stadium. The biggest attendance of the season so far is 21,708, which was recorded by the Dallas Cowboys for their home game against the Atlanta Falcons.
The Buffalo Bills, which had no fans at Bills Stadium for its first two games of the 2020 season, could welcome 10 per cent of fans at future home games, which equates to around 7,000 people.
Mark Poloncarz, County Executive of neighbouring Erie County, clarified a report via social media on Twitter by saying they would approve the allowance but said New York state must also give the idea the green light.
Currently, New York state restricts fans from attending any professional sporting events due to COVID-19.
The Atlanta Falcons has announced that fans will be welcomed at Mercedes-Benz Stadium when the team faces the Panthers on October 11.
AMB Sports and Entertainment CEO Steve Cannon said in a statement: “We are thrilled to invite fans of both the Falcons and Atlanta United back to Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Having fans watch from alternative locations was a difficult, but important decision. It’s been challenging for both teams to play without fans, but their well-being as well as the safety of our associates and fans was paramount.”
The Falcons hosted roughly 500 friends, family and associates for the game against the Chicago Bears on Sunday to further test stadium operations and protocols.