UNI, IHSAA, Black Hawk County Health collaborate to ensure safe high school football playoffs

UNI, IHSAA, Black Hawk County Health collaborate to ensure safe high school football playoffs

UNI NEWS SERVICES - Following discussions with the University of Northern Iowa, Black Hawk County Health Department, State of Iowa officials, and the Iowa High School Athletic Association, spectator capacity will be limited for this week’s football semifinals and next week’s finals at the UNI-DOME in Cedar Falls.

Wednesday’s adjustment will see ticket sales capped at 2,400 spectators per game or around 15 percent of the UNI-DOME capacity.

These event adjustments are in response to rising coronavirus case numbers in Black Hawk County, as well as Governor Kim Reynolds’ proclamation on Tuesday about large venues. UNI and the IHSAA are taking these additional safety measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 during the upcoming 18 scheduled playoff games. 

UNI has been a proud host of the finals since 1976, and semifinals since 1998. The university has put into place comprehensive safety protocols for the competitions including mandatory mask wearing, reserved seating that places spectators in group pods of up to six people, running the ventilation system at 100 percent capacity to ensure air is refreshed, and extensive cleaning procedures between games.

Tickets already purchased are still good for their assigned games. UNI is also taking steps to ensure that players’ close family members will be able to purchase tickets if they have not already done so. Ticket links sent exclusively to participating schools will be open until the capacity limit is reached. Walk-up tickets will no longer be available for any of the semifinals (Nov. 12-14) or finals (Nov. 19-20).

“We’re taking these additional steps today to further protect our campus and community,” said President Mark A. Nook. “As the longstanding host site for the state football championships, we also recognize our responsibility for the health and safety of our campus and the general public.” 

In addition to the multiple mitigation measures in place, athletes and spectators traveling for the playoffs should be advised that both Cedar Falls and Waterloo have mask mandates in effect. These mask mandates, which are supported by the university, have helped reduce coronavirus spread in the Cedar Valley. Community health officials also encourage visiting athletes and spectators to observe other health safety precautions while visiting the Cedar Falls area over the next two weeks.

Around 3,000 individuals total are expected to attend the three playoff games at the UNI-DOME tomorrow. Over 5,000 individuals are anticipated on Friday and over 6,000 on Saturday. In addition to ensuring social distancing between pods, the new capacity limitations will allow any parties wishing to distance even further to move to other available seating. 

“The UNI-DOME is a great venue that has been the setting for many memorable playoff games over the years and we’re pleased this tradition will safely continue,” said IHSAA executive director Tom Keating. “While we would love to welcome as many spectators as want to attend, these steps announced today will help keep everyone safe.”

“We’re happy to partner with UNI and appreciate the steps they’re taking in response to rising coronavirus case numbers here and across the state,” said Black Hawk County Health Department Director Nafissa Cisse Egbuonye. “We urge everyone traveling here for the playoffs to wear masks and remain socially distanced.”