Masked audiences, limited capacity and livestreams: USD 489 announces guidelines for winter sports

Blaise Mesa
The Topeka Capital-Journal
Hays High's Jason Krannawitter hits a buzzer beater during a game last season at HHS. USD 489 announced guidelines for winter sports on Monday.

Pre-purchasing tickets, masked fans and limited capacity highlight changes to winter sports as Hays USD 489 tightens restrictions.

Superintendent Ron Wilson said the district needs to be more cautious with winter sports than fall sports because more winter sports are indoors.

Wilson said about 750 people will be allowed in the Hays High School gym for games this winter, and fans must pre-purchase tickets for games by going to the Hays High School website. Students aren’t subject to crowd limitations and won’t have to pre-purchase tickets.

Wilson said Hays’ gym is one of the smaller gyms in the league and will require more stringent protocol that other schools might not have to deal with.

Seats will be blocked off and the doors to the gym will be left open with heaters running to keep people warm.

“(It) doesn’t seem like a lot of sense, but it’s all about airflow,” Wilson said at a school board meeting Monday. “There is a reason behind the madness.”

Concessions will still be offered at games, and fans can take their masks off while eating but must put them back on once they are done.

“It’s not a situation we relish, in terms of wanting to police people, especially adults, on masks,” Wilson said. “(It) puts administrators in tough spots. We just hope our community, our patrons understand it is not about us, it’s about the kids and their ability to play the games.”

Seventh-grade basketball will be played at the Hays Recreation Center while eighth-grade teams won’t have fan limitations. Fans of traveling teams aren’t allowed at seventh-grade games, but the district will livestream competitions online.

Players will also see changes as some wrestling competitions will be reduced to one-day tournaments and the Hays City Shootout will be a reduced tournament. It will be a three-day round-robin tourney with four teams: Hays, TMP-Marian, Hugoton and Wichita Life Prep Academy. All games will be played at Hays High and tickets will be sold online up to 50% capacity.

The Bob Kuhn wrestling tournament will be one day only, either a dual tournament or limited team bracket tourney.

Wilson said there will be seating charts when teams head to games to make contact tracing easier after a team receives a positive coronavirus test, and there should only be one athlete to a seat until doubling up on seats is necessary.

Wilson said it is important for families and students outside of class to stay smart to limit the spread of the virus so sports and education can continue without disruption.

Mike Walker, president of the school board, applauded the measures that Wilson announced.

“You all are doing everything possible to be as normal as possible,” Walker said. “There are just some things we have to change, and then in a few years it’ll be back to normal.”