As you all have probably noticed, competitive sports does not like being without fans during covid-19 times. Officials have been racking their brains for ideas—some less strange than others—to deal with empty stadiums for months, and we just got a new one: Fill the stands with South Park residents.
That’s what the Denver Broncos did on Sunday when they faced off against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Although the stadium was nowhere near its approximately 76,000-seat capacity, there were purportedly hundreds of South Park cutouts in the stands. In fact, ESPN reported that there were more than 1,800. What makes the initiative even better is that the fictional residents were all wearing masks. A good chunk also appeared to be social distancing.
Which is what everyone should be doing, I might add, especially in large gatherings. FYI, a good chunk doesn’t cut it if you’re a human that can catch and transmit the novel coronavirus.
The idea is also pretty funny because the animated show is set in the fictional town of South Park, Colorado. The show’s creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, are also reportedly huge Broncos fans.
Besides the South Park cutouts, the game also had about 5,700 actual humans in attendance as well. According to CBS Local, the Broncos worked with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment over three months to come up with plans and special rules to allow a limited number of fans to attend in-person. The 5,700 fans were organized in groups of 175 people, which is the limit for outdoor gatherings in the state.
Safety measures included mandatory face coverings and social distancing. The team also axed tailgating and banned congregating in parking lots, concourses or the stadium bowl, per its website. It also installed bipolar ionization in the stadium’s HVAC system, UV-C lights under escalators to reduce and eliminate bacteria on handrails and more than 500 hand sanitization stations.
When it comes to bathrooms, the team states that they are now entirely hands free, including toilets, sinks and paper towel dispensers.
Although I’m not really that into sports, I understand the need for fans. It’s part of that game day atmosphere (and let’s be honest, more money for the teams). And even though some of the initiatives so far have looked kind of, eh, strange—such as the NBA’s fan projections via Microsoft Teams—the important thing is to enjoy sports while being safe. At least it’ll help you forget the apocalyptic situation we’re living in for a while.