So you’re an Eagles season ticket holder who has tickets to a home game, now that fans are being allowed back in the Linc.
What can you expect?
Some good news from Eagles president Don Smolenski: “The traffic situation should be significantly better than normal.”
Ha-ha. A little pandemic humor there; the state and the city are allowing only 7,500 people at the event, including players, coaches, workers, and media members, so, that works out to about 6,000 fans, rather than the 70,000 who would descend on the sports complex normally.
First, don’t expect to turn onto 11th Street or Pattison Avenue waving cash at the parking attendants. If you got tickets and also purchased parking, you’ll have your parking pass on your phone. That’s the only way you’re getting into any of the lots, which open two hours before the game. Once you’re in, don’t worry about trying to squeeze into a tiny space between some people playing cornhole and a monster truck – no tailgating will be allowed, and every other parking space will be blocked off.
What is the first thing you’ll want to do when you get out of your car?
Well, “find some opponent fans to harass” wasn’t really the answer we were looking for there. The first thing you need to do is put on your mask, the Eagles say. They want everyone masked from the moment they exit their cars until the moment they get back in them afterward.
Masks must be masks, covering the nose and mouth. No bandanas. Nothing with a valve or an opening.
Head toward the designated gate for the ticket on your phone. There are four entry points, and you have to enter through the one listed on your ticket. Gates open 90 minutes before kickoff.
When you get to the line to enter, you’ll notice big stickers on the pavement. These are not for you to peel off and place on the back of your unsuspecting friend. They tell you where to stand, to remain socially distanced from the people around you as you inch toward the metal detectors. You’ll have to place all your stuff on the belt and take it off yourself, like at an airport. The employees aren’t touching it.
Once you’re inside, you can go to the concession stand or the restroom, or the team store for souvenirs, but, again, everything is cashless. If all you brought was cash, there will be merchandise stands where you can get money exchanged for prepaid cards you can use.
Bathrooms are a logical source of virus transmission concern. The Eagles say guys won’t be standing side-by-side at urinals, every other one will be closed, and given that the restrooms were built to serve a much larger crowd, there should be plenty of room for everyone to feel relatively safe.
You want to minimize the time that you’re indoors, though, pandemic experts say.
Temple epidemiology assistant professor Dr. Aimee Palumbo noted that the size of the Linc, relative to the number of fans allowed to attend, "actually allows for a lot of distance between groups.
"Assuming they have those groups spread pretty evenly throughout the stadium, it seems like a low-risk activity, because it’s outdoors, it’s easy to keep distance from those who are not in your immediate party, and … they are taking precautions for the limited time that you must spend indoors or in contact with others.
“We know that the closer proximity you are to people, and for longer periods of time, the higher the risk of transmission, so as with other social activities we engage in, people should be mindful of what precautions others in their group are taking [assuming they are not already in the same household].”
Penn State’s Dr. Nita Bharti expressed the concern that “individuals seated together in a pod at the stadium who do not reside in a single household represent an increased risk of exposure within their ‘stadium pod.’ And of course, fans travel to games, so there is a concern that the downstream effects of a few transmission events in the stadium may be felt in homes, schools, and communities throughout the region.”
The Eagles say your seating pod will be no closer than six feet in any direction from other fan pods.
So, once you’re in your seat, is it safe to cheer, or — let’s be real here — boo vociferously?
“Distancing, wearing masks, and the outdoor setting will help reduce transmission, but cheering and yelling during the game will increase transmission risk,” Bharti said.
Palumbo, though, said she felt that if the pods of fans were adequately distanced from one another, outdoors, and everyone wore masks, cheering or booing shouldn’t make you significantly less safe.
(Yelling that you love the Cowboys could make you significantly less safe, however.)
Smolenski emphasized the steps the Eagles have taken to lessen risks. Furniture has been removed from places around the stadium where fans might usually sit. He said about 12,000 signs will remind people to keep their masks on.
“If people get food, they have to take their food and go sit in their seat, and not gather,” he said.
Of course, you aren’t expected to wear your mask while eating or drinking, that would be messy.
One thing to bear in mind about that yelling: with so few folks in the stands, if you yell something, everyone can hear you. So try to be witty.
Once the game ends, you are encouraged to go directly to your car, not hang around with others. There will be a police presence in the parking lots to make sure rules are followed.