“Welcome back to MAPFRE Stadium!” This is a phrase Columbus Crew SC fans haven’t heard in over six months. Yet this weekend, some fans will get the opportunity to return to the home of the Black & Gold.
The Crew announced on Thursday that the club will sell a limited number of tickets for Sunday’s, Sept. 6 match against FC Cincinnati. This marks the first time since the season opener on March 1 against New York City FC that fans will be allowed in attendance at MAPFRE Stadium in an altered season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This decision to allow fans comes after the Crew consulted with government health officials, leading sports architecture firm and venue reconfiguration expert, Populous and Major League Soccer’s experts to create and implement health and safety protocols to maintain a safe environment at the stadium.
“We are pleased to be able to welcome back an extremely limited number of supporters to MAPFRE Stadium for our upcoming rivalry match this weekend and we are prepared to execute our Responsible Restart Plan,” Crew president and general manager Tim Bezbatchenko said. ”The health and safety of all individuals entering the building remains our top priority to ensure a safe continuation of the 2020 MLS season. As we have stated before, we recognize that circumstances are fluid and as such, have designed plans to maximize flexibility and the ability to adapt to changing circumstances. We will continue to collaborate with public health experts, government officials and the MLS to make the return to the Stadium as safe as possible.”
Since that opening game of the year, a 1-0 victory for Columbus, the Crew played a road game at the Seattle Sounders on March 7 before the season came to halt because of the virus. The team then took part in the MLS is Back Tournament at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Florida beginning in mid-July. MLS returned to home markets in late August but the Black & Gold played each of the last two home games behind closed doors.
Tickets will be prioritized to season ticket members based on tenure and will begin on pre-sale at 1 p.m. ET on Thursday. There will be a total of 1,500 tickets sold, based on the ordinances on sporting events by Ohio governor Mike DeWine, and fans will be able to purchase in on-sale waves at any available location inside MAPFRE Stadium. It is also important to note that no tailgating will be permitted in the stadium parking lots.
Fans that do attend the match are required to wear facemasks consistent with state and local health requirements and medical expert guidance. Seating for the game will follow government and medical expert recommendations, meaning there must be six feet distancing between “seating pods,” which may impact exact season ticket member locations.
“In addition to requirements of face coverings for all individuals entering the venue, the capacity adjustments for MAPFRE Stadium are driven by six feet distancing between fans’ self-selected known and trusted pods,” Bezbatchenko said. “We’ve designed our seating layout to ensure proper socially distanced seat placement for fans. We want to thank all of the supporters for following health and safety protocols outlined as we prepare for an exciting match and encourage fans to review the educational video, frequently asked questions, and attend the informational session via Zoom as we look to answer questions ahead of this match. Finally, I especially want to thank our staff that has worked tirelessly to be able us to host a limited number of fans as safely as possible here in Phase 1 as we look to support the team on the field.”
For more information on the club’s Responsible Restart Plan, there will be a Zoom meeting with Crew Executive Vice President, Chief Business Officer Steve Lyons, Crew Vice President, Soccer Administration & Operations Jaime McMillan and Crew Vice President, Stadium Operations Frank DePizzo. Fans can register for the Zoom call here.
Additionally, a tutorial on the matchday experience can be found here. This discusses the health and safety protocols at the stadium as well as parking, no tailgating, ticketing, ingress/egress, masks/coverings, seating, social distancing, food and beverage, merchandise and more.
The Crew is 6-1-2 through nine games of the MLS 2020 regular season and sits at the top of the Eastern Conference standings. After Sunday’s game against Cincinnati, the Black & Gold are scheduled to face the Chicago Fire at Soldier Field on Sept. 12 to conclude Phase 1 of MLS’s restart plan. MLS is yet to announce the schedule for Phase 2.