COLUMBIA, MO. — Mizzou football is back in action this weekend for the first time this season and like many other events, the pandemic is bringing changes inside Memorial Stadium.
It’s something players, staff and even Tiger Athletics didn’t think was possible during a pandemic: to play football, but Saturday night the Mizzou Tigers will take the field against Alabama in a sold-out home opener. Less than 12,000 fans will be allowed inside the stadium and masks will be required at all times.
Mizzou Deputy Athletics Director for Communications Nick Joos said game day will have a different look this year.
“We are reimagining whatever you’ve done to go to the games for however many years you’ve come, chances are it’s probably going to be different in some fashion this year,” Joos said. “It’s probably going to be a football season unlike any other. There’s no cheerleaders on the field, no Golden Girls on the field and the band will be half the size.”
The first big change, tailgating is not allowed anywhere on university property.
“Parking lots normally open at 8 a.m. but for all the games this season, they will only open three hours prior to game time,” Joos said. “Gates will open two hours prior to kick and obviously reduced capacity.”
Joos said only 11,700 fans are allowed in the game Saturday night in the stadium that holds 61,000 and tickets will be electronic. He said tickets will not be available at the gates.
“1,000 tickets were dedicated to the students, so those students sign up for tickets on Mondays of home game weeks,” Joos said.
Fans will also be restricted to zones inside the stadium.
“Each area of the stadium is a zone,” Joos said. “So, there is clear and designated signage that will be on your ticket throughout the stadium relative to the zone. Then your bathroom, your concessions, your gate is all controlled by that zone.”
Joos said the zones can also help with contact tracing if needed and to stop people from being overcrowded.
Mizzou is asking fans to not use cash for concessions where items will be prepackaged.
“Cash-less transactions are certainly what we are encouraging at concession stands if at all possible,” Joos said.
Besides in the suites, Joos said Mizzou installed Plexiglas at the concession stands as well.
Joos said fans must sit in their assigned seat.
“And you will see in the stadium where the seats are marked where we want you to sit,” Joos said. “All the seats are reserved, even those that are for the students and we want you to physically sit where we’ve put chair back out. They are in groups of two, four or six depending on what purchase. The north end zone and the rock ‘M’ will have social distancing squares where we want people to be as well.”
He said even though attendance numbers will be down to 20 percent capacity, security is being upped.
“So, we are going to have a heavy security presence,” Joos said. “We are going to have as many, if not more people working games this year even though the stadium is not full and the surrounding areas maybe aren’t as full to ensure compliance with the riles that we laid out.”
Players said they’re ready to get back out on the gridiron.
“I was talking the other day to someone like, it’s kind of been hard for me to get into other college football games and stuff going on because we hadn’t started yet, but I think it’s really starting to feel like that and it sure will feel like that Saturday night,” Mizzou wide receiver Barrett Banister said.
“So, it’s just up to us to do our job, come in focused, play in and play out and try to give us a chance to win at the end,” Mizzou linebacker Nick Bolton said.
Masks are required at all times while inside the stadium unless you’re eating or drinking. If you don’t follow policies, you can be kicked out of the game.
“We’ve had policies in the past and the ‘no smoking policy’ is probably the one I would compare this to strongly,” Joos said.
Joos said if everything goes well this game, they might be able to increase capacity for the next home game which is homecoming on Oct. 17.