NFL American football franchise the Dallas Cowboys has confirmed it will introduce a ‘pod’ seating concept to AT&T Stadium as part of efforts to ensure fans can attend games during the 2020 season.

The Cowboys have published a Safe Stadium Policy after owner Jerry Jones this week maintained the organisation is still determined to welcome fans to AT&T Stadium, stating the NFL can act as an example for COVID-19 response.

The state of Texas currently stipulates that sports venues can only admit a maximum of 50% of their capacity, and with AT&T Stadium regularly recording attendances in excess of 100,000 this represents a significant number of fans.

The Cowboys said it began a comprehensive review of AT&T Stadium, team operations, and every aspect of the fan experience several months ago. Throughout this process, the Cowboys have worked with the NFL, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the State of Texas, local public safety and public health officials.

As part of this work and preparation, AT&T Stadium has received GBAC STARTM accreditation from the Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC), which recognises best-in-class proactive practices in cleaning, disinfection, and infectious disease prevention.

The Safe Stadium Policy includes numerous aspects, such as guidelines on stadium capacity. The Cowboys said capacity at AT&T Stadium will be “limited” to start the 2020 season, in accordance with guidelines from the CDC, the state, local public safety and public health authorities. Fans are required to practice social distancing inside and outside of AT&T Stadium, including parking lots, entry queues and seating.

With 15 dedicated entries and exits, in addition to the three million square feet of club, concourse and corridor space, the Cowboys believe fans will have ample space to practice social distancing. Weather permitting, AT&T Stadium’s unique retractable roof and end zone door design grants the ability to maximise fresh air flow throughout the building, along with the capability of circulating 840,000 cubic feet per minute (CFM) of fresh air through its mechanical system.

In terms of seating, the Cowboys said tickets will be distributed in seat blocks or ‘pods’ to maintain distance between groups who are not known to one another. Fans are required to maintain pod integrity by only transferring tickets to family or friends within their trusted group. Each ticket holder should have their own mobile ticket on their device.

Beginning this season, all tickets at AT&T Stadium will be digital and available through fans’ mobile devices. In order to provide a contactless experience for fans, there will no longer be physical tickets. All food, beverage, parking and retail will also become a cashless experience.

Fans will have frictionless entry to stadium parking lots and will go through a frictionless security scan using 60 socially distanced metal detectors to enter AT&T Stadium. The Cowboys said: “We will take every step possible to ensure ingress and egress at each of AT&T Stadium’s 15 entries is smooth, swift, and safe.”

Consistent with NFL and local public safety and health policy, all fans will be required to wear a mask when moving from their personal or public transportation to AT&T Stadium, including while in stadium parking lots. In addition, all fans and stadium employees will be required to wear a mask at all times, except when they are actively eating or drinking or if under 10 years of age.

As part of the stadium cleaning provision, fans will have access to over 300 additional hand sanitisation stations located throughout AT&T Stadium.

Charlotte Jones, Dallas Cowboys chief brand officer, said: “Bringing football back will require the ultimate team effort, and we are so proud of the hard work our front line professionals have put in at the stadium and across our organisation to ensure our fans, players, and employees have a safe and rewarding experience.

“The Dallas Cowboys value health and safety as our first priority, and we will continue to work closely with local public safety and public health professionals, the CDC and the NFL to ensure that our unrivalled fan experience at AT&T Stadium is the safest and best it can possibly be. There will be many changes this year, and we are deeply grateful for the understanding and support from our dedicated fans.”

In other news, the Baltimore Ravens have reportedly sent a revised proposal to the mayor’s office outlining a cap of 7,500 fans at games. The Ravens last month became the first team in the league to specify its intended attendance cap if fans are allowed at games during the 2020 season.

At the time, the Ravens said M&T Bank Stadium’s expected stadium capacity would be fewer than 14,000 if fans are permitted into venues at all when the season gets underway in September. M&T Bank Stadium’s usual capacity is 71,000 and the capped figure was based on social distancing guidelines and fan safety protocols developed by the NFL, health experts and government officials.

Image: AT&T Stadium