Athletics aims for 100% capacity at fall sporting events


Northern Star file photo

Currently NIU athletics expects fans to remain in the stands for the season at 100% capacity, the rise in Delta variant cases puts everything on the table for spectators. The Northern Star is committed to providing fans updates as they become available.

By Kyle Mathas

DeKALB — NIU attendance policies could change drastically heading into the Fall 2021 season with up to 100% capacity being allowed at games.

This past year, in NIU Athletics, there have been no fans allowed at the games for any sport. For a long period of time, there were talks of not even having seasons for any sport. The amount of fans that can be at a stadium or an arena could completely change in the fall season for the university.

“Depending on what phase we are in by the fall semester, the stadiums could be 60% capacity to 100% capacity by then,” John Cheney, Executive Associate Athletic Director for NIU said. “It still depends on what phase the governor of Illinois puts us in.” 

The NIU football team has already released its full 12-game schedule for the 2021-2022 season. They have games at Georgia Tech University, at home against the University of Wyoming and on the road against the University of Michigan Wolverines at Michigan Stadium, a stadium that can hold up to 108,000 fans. 

Now that many seasons are completed in NIU athletics, players have the opportunity to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Players previously had to isolate themselves to make sure they didn’t contract the virus and have games postponed or cancelled. With a vaccination, athletes will have to remain vigilant, but they will have more freedom in their upcoming seasons.

“Athletes who get the COVID-19 vaccine will most likely not have to go through surveillance testing and will have a little bit less restriction on them,” Cheney said.  “There will still be some safety requirements but it won’t be nearly as restrictive as it has been.” 

What the fan experience will look like in the stadium is still up in the air currently. Food and drinks will be allowed and social distancing guidelines could be loosened dramatically. It completely depends on what has happened over the summer in terms of vaccinations and the reduced spread of the virus, according to Cheney. 

“There might still be spacing in the seats or in the concession stand lines because people are used to giving people their personal space now but I don’t think it will require a six foot distance,” Cheney said. “It will kind of be the new normal, where people try to give people around them more space than what was before.”

With the fall semester right around the corner, updates like these could be coming out on a week-to-week basis. We will find out more as the summer continues.