When the Chiefs begin their Super Bowl defense next month, there will be fans in the Arrowhead Stadium stands.
The Chiefs announced plans for a reduced capacity of 22% when they kick off their season Sept. 10 against the Houston Texans. With a seating capacity of approximately 76,000, the reduction would equate to about 16,700 fans.
The blueprint for the reduced capacity, which applies to the first three home games, falls "under the guidelines established by the National Football League, and with the approval of Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas, City of Kansas City Health Director Dr. Rex Archer and City of Kansas City EMS Medical Director Dr. Erica Carney," the Chiefs said in a statement.
As the season progresses, the team and officials could alter the permitted capacity, they said.
According to a Georgia Tech risk assessment tool, gatherings of 1,000 or more people in Jackson County would entail a 99% chance that at least one person has COVID-19. Outdoor activities pose a lesser risk than indoor activities, studies have shown, but they aren't absent risk.
According to the Mayo Clinic, "When you're outside, fresh air is constantly moving, dispersing these droplets. So, you're less likely to breathe in enough of the respiratory droplets containing the virus that causes COVID-19 to become infected."
The Chiefs will institute increased COVID-19 protocols and measures. For starters, anyone attending the game will need to wear a mask, unless they are "actively eating or drinking." Fans will be required to bring their own mask.
Tickets for the initial three home games will go on sale on Aug. 24, with season-ticket members having the first chance to buy them based on tenure. They will be sold in "pods," and fans can purchase up to six seats in one pod.
The complex will continue to allow tailgating, though guests can only tailgate with those who also have tickets in their pod, the team outlined.
Once inside the stadium, they will be greeted with "new physical distancing measures in place, including in seating areas, in areas where lines tend to form, as well as high-traffic areas." The stadium will move to a completely cashless system, with credit and debit cards at points of sales.
All staff members will go through health screenings, including temperature checks. The "high-touch areas" will be cleaned and sanitized before, during and after each game.
The plan was developed throughout the spring and the summer with input from the team, physicians at the University of Kansas Health System, the Kansas City Health Department and the mayor's office.
"Consistent with other Midwestern franchises, social distancing, masks, and change will be part of the experience as Kansas Citians return to the stands," Lucas said in a statement. "I know the Chiefs Kingdom will continue to showcase its care for our community by making responsible health decisions this season — whether you're planning on going to a game at Arrowhead Stadium or watching the game elsewhere."
Archer, the director of the health department, said pods will be staggered throughout the stadium, with some aisles being left empty.
"We did the math, went through and figured out how many blocks of seats could be filled and that's what we came up with," he said.
Other precautions include spacing out tailgaters and limiting the number of people in the indoor restrooms.
"Is it a 100% foolproof from the disease spreading? No. Do we think we've taken a lot of precautions? Yes. Should folks that are high risk for hospitalization or death be attending? Probably not," Archer said.