MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – A maximum of 13,000 fans will be allowed at the Miami Dolphins home opener at Hard Rock Stadium on Sept. 20 when the Fins face the Buffalo Bills.
After the deep cleaning, the practice runs, the installation of many signs and new technology, folks at Hard Rock Stadium are looking to start their version of new normal by bringing football fans back into the building.
“It’s not quite normal because it’s not 65,000 fans, but it is more normal,” said Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez.
Gimenez was on hand at the stadium on Monday, along with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and football executives from the Dolphins, to make the official announcement.
"All is contactless, you walk in and you don't have to touch anything, you don't have to touch anybody," said Gimenez.
Added DeSantis: ”I think putting all the money that [the Dolphins] did into this, to be able to give the fans the ability to watch some football in person, I think means a lot.”
Some fans will be allowed in for the Dolphins home opener against the Buffalo Bills on Sept. 20, but many new rules are in place; such as small group seating clusters, a cashless experience, and even the air conditioning system received a major upgrade.
"We changed out the filtration systems, the air quality where you're sitting right now is hospital-quality air," said Dolphins and Hard Rock Stadium CEO Tom Garfinkel. "Meaning, it removes more things from the air than what I'll call restaurant-quality air."
Despite cutting back the seating, there are some, like Rep. Donna Shalala, who are questioning the move.
“It’s difficult to open anything in a pandemic much less a stadium,” Shalala said on Twitter.
It is difficult to open anything in a pandemic, much less a stadium for live sporting events, when you have community spread.— Rep. Donna E. Shalala (@RepShalala) August 24, 2020
We'll continue seeing inconsistent progress fighting this virus if we again loosen restrictions immediately just as cases are starting to go down.
Miami plays just two home games during the first six weeks of the NFL season; the home opener against the Bills and a meeting with the Seattle Seahawks on Oct. 4.
It isn’t until three weeks later that the Dolphins host the two Los Angeles teams, the Chargers and Rams, on consecutive Sunday’s at Hard Rock Stadium.
At this point, the Dolphins aren’t saying whether there will be fans allowed to any games past the first one.
“When we started the process back in March of exploring what a socially-distanced stadium could look like, we made the health and safety of everyone the first priority; knowing that if we felt that we couldn’t make it safe, we simply wouldn’t have fans,” Garfinkel said in a statement. “We’re happy that our elected officials recognize the attention to detail and diligence that we’ve put into creating a safe environment and that they made the decision to move forward with a 13,000-capacity stadium at this time.”
Policies for the 2020 season will include:
· GBAC Star certification
· Socially distanced seating clusters
· All fans and stadium employees will be required to wear a mask when not actively eating or drinking
· Upgrading Air Conditioning filters from Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) 10 to MERV 14 (Hospital Grade)
· Mobile touchless entry with more points of entries and exits to help avoid bottlenecks at ingress/egress
· Staggered gate entry with entry times listed on game tickets
· Cashless experience for food service, parking and retail
· New walk through metal detectors with touchless security screening to allow fans to keep all items in their pockets for faster entry
· 1 metal detector for every 104 fans vs 1 metal detector for every 394 fans in 2019
· Changing from manual to contactless toilets and faucets
· No smoking inside the stadium or helixes
· No tailgating for 2020 season with parking lots open two hours before kickoff instead of four hours
Season ticket members will have first priority to purchase tickets to games at Hard Rock Stadium based on their tenure.
All fans will go through a touchless security scan upon entry, and food, beverage, parking and retail will all be cashless, with payments being accepted through in-app mobile and credit card options.
Team officials said deposits are currently being accepted for suites and single-game ticket information will be made available at a later date.