VOICES: High school sports still in capacity limit debate

Category:  Opinions
Wednesday, September 30th, 2020 at 9:00 AM

Throughout the course of summer, high school athletes trained and prepared as if they were going to have a normal season in the fall. These athletes were doing so with their seasons firmly up in the air.  

All their hard work and persistence, along with a heavy dose of hope, paid off on July 29, as the PIAA voted to allow fall sports to be played. Then, on Aug. 7, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf released an extensive list of rules and safety precautions to accompany the play.  

PIAA Executive Director Bob Lombardi understands the health risks that come along with playing these sports, but has wanted to work with the government to create fair guidelines. Lombardi sent a letter (which was later made public) to Wolf on Aug. 28, asking for clarification on his rules in place. “Let us work together and get the minimum standard that’s doable,” he wrote.

The first fall sport that resumed play was golf on Aug. 20, with tennis, football, cross country, soccer and field hockey following shortly after. While these sports resumed, the idea of fans being allowed at these fall events remained up in the air. No fans were going to be allowed at first, while then Gov. Wolf proposed that the capacity for indoor sports be set at 25 people and outdoor sports at 250. These numbers included fans, coaches, athletes, officials and workers. While that left some room for fans at outdoor events, indoor ones were fairly empty due to the number of athletes and coaches.  

Then, on Wednesday, Sept. 2, the PA House of Representatives passed a bill that would give schools the power to decide their own seating capacities. State Rep. Mike Reese urged the state Senate to pass the bill and allows family to have the opportunity to be at the games. The bill was passed by the Senate, but then denied by Wolf due to his continuing health and safety concerns. There's since been additional legal challenges to Wolf's capacity limits.

Recently, U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, along with other Pennsylvania lawmakers, made public their objections to Wolf's limits. In part, the letter stated:  “We write today urging you to reconsider your opposition to allowing in-person attendance at school sporting events during the 2020-2021 school year, and with collegiate and professional football safely resuming across the country, we also encourage you to permit attendance at upcoming games. The Commonwealth’s arbitrary 250-person limit on outdoor gatherings is needlessly preventing Pennsylvanians from responsibly enjoying sports events and should be adjusted immediately.”

We'll continue to track the changing rules, but for now, capacity limits remain one of the more back-and-forth aspects of the ongoing Pennsylvania sports saga.

Steven McGarvie is a staff writer for The Spectator. He can be reached at edinboro.spectator@gmail.com.

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