‘It gives you hope’: New order allows NC venues to increase fan capacity

CHARLOTTE — The Kannapolis Cannon Ballers baseball team likes to say, “2020 was a kick in the Ballers.” The team’s season was canceled instead of debuting their new stadium in the heart of downtown.

Now, Atrium Health Ballpark is open to fans who want to take a stroll around the concourse, grab food or play on the playground. And in a few weeks, baseball will be back and fans will be able to attend games.

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“It is great because of all the hard work that has gone into this from the city, our staff and just community from anticipation,” General Manager Matt Millward said. “I will really feel proud on Opening Day.”

Gov. Roy Cooper’s new executive order allows outdoor sporting venues to open at 30% capacity. Indoor venues can open at 15% capacity. For Atrium Health Ballpark, that means roughly 1,500 fans will be able to attend games. Bank of America Stadium can welcome more than 22,000 fans. Spectrum Center can bring in around 3,000 people.

The largest crowd will be at the Charlotte Motor Speedway on Memorial Day Weekend. A total attendance figure hasn’t been finalized, but 30% capacity will be permitted. The speedway hosted 7% capacity last year, and officials said they are excited and prepared to expand.

“As soon as the governor’s order came out, and we put out communication to our fans, the phones started ringing off the hook,” General Manager Greg Walter said. “What we are seeing is folks are ready to start attending events and races again.”

It’s not just sporting events impacted by Cooper’s announcement. Concerts can resume as well. PNC Music Pavilion will be able to hold close to 6,000 attendees.

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With a capacity limit in place, stadiums are finalizing their plans. Atrium Health Ballpark is planning pod-style seating with at least 6 feet of separation.

“I know once a fan comes here, they are going to want to come back,” Millward said. “It is all about the memories.”

The first pitch will be in May.

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Some fans said they feel optimistic as the state opens more venues and COVID-19 cases decline with the rising rate of vaccinations.

“It gives you hope,” Ron Haithcock said. “I think things are going to get better.”

The capacity limits also impact high school sporting events. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools will allow a maximum of 500 fans at games -- 300 for the home team and 200 for the away team.

Statement from the Charlotte Hornets:

We are excited that Governor Cooper has granted the opportunity for fans to begin returning to indoor arenas and entertainment venues. We have remained in contact with state and county officials, as well as the NBA, throughout the last year and are preparing a plan that we believe will allow fans to safely return to Spectrum Center in the near future.

With the health of our guests, players and staff as our top priority, we have implemented a variety of upgrades to ensure that Spectrum Center is as safe as possible, including increased levels of air filtration and purification, as well as enhanced cleaning and disinfecting procedures. Additionally, we have earned a pair of third-party certifications for the protocols we have put in place, the GBAC STAR Facility Accreditation from the Global Biorisk Advisory Council – which we were the first facility in North Carolina to receive last September – and the WELL Health-Safety Rating for Facility Operations & Management from International WELL Building Institute.

We look forward to working with Governor Cooper, Mecklenburg County Manager Dena Diorio and our state and county health officials to reopen Spectrum Center to fans soon.

Statement from the Charlotte Knights:

“We are very pleased with today’s announcement from Governor Cooper that outdoor sports venues in North Carolina can now operate at 30% capacity. Our first home game of the 2021 season is set for Tuesday, April 13th and we look forward to safely welcoming fans back to Truist Field. We will continue to work with state and local officials between now and our scheduled home opener.”

Statement from the Charlotte Motor Speedway:

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper and state health officials announced a plan Wednesday to allow outdoor sports venues, including Charlotte Motor Speedway, to host events with fans up to 30 percent of their capacity, beginning Feb 26. The announcement paves the way for a limited number of fans to be part of the action when NASCAR’s best return to America’s Home for Racing for the first-ever tripleheader weekend – featuring the North Carolina Education Lottery 200, Alsco Uniforms 300 and historic 62nd running of the Coca-Cola 600 – at Charlotte Motor Speedway May 28-30.

“The energy and excitement of our fans is what fuels our sport and everything we do here at America’s Home for Racing,” said Charlotte Motor Speedway Executive Vice President and General Manager Greg Walter. “We’ve been in close contact throughout the pandemic with the governor’s office about how we can safely host race fans, and I cannot overstate how excited we are with today’s news. From hosting one of NASCAR’s crown jewel events to honoring the men and women of our Armed Forces, the Coca-Cola 600 weekend is special for so many reasons. While the grandstands won’t be full, being able to share this historic event with thousands of fans in person is a big step in the right direction. We hope with continued improvement in pandemic trends by May that we may be able to host even more fans.”

Details are still being determined regarding camping availability.

SAFETY PROTOCOLS:

COVID-safe protocols similar to those used during the Bank of America ROVAL™ 400 weekend last fall, including mask requirements, cashless transactions and social distancing are expected to remain in place when fans return in May. Protocols may be modified or adjusted subject to current state and local guidelines.

TICKETS:

Tickets are still available for the 62nd running of the Coca-Cola 600, Saturday’s Alsco Uniforms 300 showdown and Friday’s North Carolina Education Lottery 200 Camping World Truck Series donnybrook. Weekend packages start at just $99 for adults. Kids 13 and under get in free on Friday and Saturday nights and for only $10 on Sunday. Tickets are and available online at www.charlottemotorspeedway.com or by calling 800-455-FANS (3267).

Statement from CMS:

Governor Cooper announced today the state will allow increased numbers of spectators at sporting events beginning at 5 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 26.

On March 1, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools will begin to allow 500 spectators at outdoor athletic contests. The home team will be allowed 300 spectators and the visiting team 200 spectators. CMS athletic directors will communicate information to families on digital ticket sale structure and availability. Face coverings are required on CMS property at all times and social distancing regulations remain in effect.

CMS will remain at the current limit of 100 spectators at outdoor athletic events through the end of this week.

Friday morning, the North Carolina High School Athletic Association will send participating schools final details for basketball playoff games scheduled on Saturday, Feb. 27. Additional information will be communicated when received.