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Schools react to new rules for spectators at athletic events

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Fans who were unable to get into the stadium to watch Williamsport play Berwick are scattered across the hill overlooking the stadium.

Allowing family members to see their child participate, either as a student athlete, a member of the band or the cheerleading squad, is the first priority of area school districts as they respond to the governor’s new directives upping the amount of people allowed to be in sports venues during games.

The new guidelines, which came out earlier this week, allow 25 percent attendance at stadiums that seat up to 2,000 people, 20 percent at stadiums with a seating capacity from 2,001 to 10,000 people and 15 percent capacity for any stadium over 10,000, with a cap at 7,500 people.

Most of the districts in the area fall in the range which allows 20 percent. For the Williamsport Area School, the largest in the area, the stadium has a seating capacity of 6,500, which will allow for 1,300 people in for an event.

When broken down, however, this amount has to include members of both teams, any band members, cheerleaders and essential personnel, such as officials and media. That amount is dependent on the size of the opposing team, according to Sean McCann, athletic director at Williamsport, with the amount of tickets that will be given out to spectators being determined by the total of all those groups.

A system of tickets is planned for distributing whatever amount of seats are available in the stadium.

Although Williamsport hasn’t finalized their plans, McCann said that the discussion on spectators has centered around getting the parents of the participants into the stadium first.

“Now that we can expand things, we want to include the band, cheerleaders, football. We’re considering right now, four parents or spectators per student,” McCann said. “That’s our tentative plan.”

“We want to be able to take care of some season ticket holders that been loyal to us over the years. We’d like to get them into the games as well. Unfortunately, we’re not going to be able to open it up to the general public,” McCann said. He did note that games will still be livestreamed.

The East Lycoming School District’s stadium has a capacity of a little over 2,000, so they are planning to hand out 500 tickets for Friday’s game against Southern Columbia. Two tickets will first be given to students in the band, on the football team, or members of the cheerleading squad. Two tickets will also be available to the opposing team members. Members of the junior and senior classes will have a limited number of tickets reserved for the game also.

East Lycoming, unlike most other districts, is then opening up the rest of the tickets to members of the community on a first come first serve basis the night before the game.

“What we were able to do was look at the new capacity numbers that the governor has approved for us to provide tickets for parents,” said Michael Pawlik, superintendent at East Lycoming. “And then we just used some common sense.”

“You know parents should be able to see their children,” he added.

Pawlik had nothing but praise for parents who have not been able so far to attend the games to see their child participate in the fall sports season because of restrictions on crowd size.

“”They have worked with us and understood about tickets. I can’t say anything but give our whole community praise for the way they’ve been handling this,” he said.

Pawlik noted that additional rest rooms and entrances will be available for the game.

For South Williamsport Area School District, with a stadium seating capacity at 2,450, the amount of people able to attend sports events is even less.

“Our plan now is to give each South participant two tickets, whether that’s a football, band or cheer participant. Our main focus is to get our kids in, so we’re handing out about between 200 and 270 tickets for our athletes, band members and cheerleaders, then whatever we have leftover is to allow the opposing team (spectators) to come,” said Rob Houseknecht, athletic director at South Williamsport.

Houseknecht said that the plan will be implemented for Friday’s games.

For both Williamsport and South Williamsport, who also have volleyball teams, the governor’s directives state that sports arenas with a maximum seating capacity of 2,000 or less can have a 20 percent capacity, up to 10,000 can have 15 percent and over 10,000, ten percent capacity.

“We do have volleyball that’s going on right now. We’re taking the same stance. Get two tickets for our participants and then two tickets to the opposing team,” Houseknecht said.

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