CARBONDALE — Saluki Athletics will limit the attendance to the Oct. 30 football game against Southeast Missouri State to 3,000 fans because of the coronavirus, the school announced Tuesday.
That number represents a 20% capacity at the 15,000-seat Saluki Stadium, which is recommended by the state and based upon a plan guided by the Jackson County Health Department and approved by SIU's Emergency Operations Center. Only season ticket holders, students and players' families will be admitted, with strict safety protocols.
"We're excited to bring football back to our campus and community, and I'm confident in our ability to provide a safe and enjoyable experience for the fans who can attend the game," SIU athletic director Liz Jarnigan said in a news release Tuesday. "In these trying times, sports provide a welcome break from the hardships we've all endured throughout the pandemic."
A limited amount of five-game season tickets are still available for $75. Fans have until Tuesday, Oct. 13 at 5 p.m. to purchase new season tickets, which will include the SEMO game and four Missouri Valley Football Conference home games in the spring, or renew in order to receive tickets to the SEMO game. Seats will be socially distanced and assigned, with current season ticket holders getting relocated first.
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"It's important for season ticket holders to understand that we will be re-seating the stadium to socially distance fans," said assistant athletic director for ticketing Bryce Williams. "Our goal is to seat fans as close to their original location as possible. If we have to move someone from a chair-back section, we'll provide a temporary chair-back in the new location."
Season tickets will be mailed to account holders the week of Oct. 19.
Students have until Friday, Oct. 23, at 5 p.m. to request tickets online at siusalukis.com. Students must pick up their tickets at the Banterra Center ticket window between 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Oct. 26 or Oct. 27, with valid ID.
Tailgating will not be permitted, and fans will be required to wear a mask or facial covering upon entering the stadium. They will only be permitted to remove those face coverings while eating or drinking. Hand sanitizing stations will be available throughout the stadium. There will also be a clear bag policy for all five home games.
"I would like to thank Public Safety Director Ben Newman and his team for their close coordination with athletics staff to devise our safety plan," Jarnigan said. "I urge our fans who attend the game to closely follow our Covid-19 protocols. Your cooperation will help ensure a safe environment and increase our ability to host games in the future."
For more information on tickets, please call the ticket office at 618-453-1803.
The athletic department will also need your help to host SEMO, as it plans to re-assess fan attendance should Jackson County be placed on the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) warning list for COVID-19 for more than two straight weeks. Jackson County has had 1,306 cases of COVID-19 as of Tuesday, according to the most recent numbers from the local health departments, with 24 deaths. Only nearby Williamson County, with 1,506 cases and 56 deaths, has had more in the region.
As recently as Aug. 28, six nearby counties were on the IDPH warning list, Johnson, Perry, Randolph, Union, White and Williamson. Counties land on the state's warning list by having two or more risk factors the state monitors, including new cases per 100,000 people, an increase in deaths over two consecutive weeks, a 7-day positivity rate over 8%, ICU available, and others.
Jackson County had a positivity rate of 3.7% as of the IDPH's most recent numbers, 44 deaths per 100,000 people and 61.5% of ICU beds available. If a county's ICU availability falls lower than 20%, it will qualify as one of the risk factors for the warning list.
On Twitter: @THefferman