Eagles fans to return to Lincoln Financial Field, Saints weigh up Tiger Stadium switch

The Philadelphia Eagles are set to become the latest NFL team to have fans back in their stadium, while the New Orleans Saints have held talks with Louisiana State University (LSU) over holding games at Tiger Stadium.

Under the guidelines provided by the National Football League and public health experts, and with the approval of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the City of Philadelphia, the Eagles have finalised plans that will lead to a limited capacity of fans returning to 69,176-capacity Lincoln Financial Field, starting from Sunday’s game against the Baltimore Ravens.

The stadium occupancy will be limited to 7,500 people, which includes players, coaches, team and stadium personnel, media, and fans. The Pittsburgh Steelers last week notified season ticket holders who had previously opted into attending home games if possible during the 2020 season that the team would be welcoming approximately 5,500 fans for each of the two games at 68,400-capacity Heinz Field in October.

The Steelers hosted the Eagles in front of 4,708 fans on Sunday. The move was made possible after Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced the state would alter venue gathering limits. A sliding scale has been introduced limiting attendance to 3,750 for the largest indoor spaces and 7,500 for the largest outdoor venues. However, the City of Philadelphia had to approve the move before the Eagles could follow suit, a decision that came yesterday (Tuesday).

Ticket sales for Sunday’s game against the Ravens and next Thursday night’s game against the New York Giants begin today for Season Ticket Members who opted into the 2020 season. Tickets will be sold in groups with the ability to purchase as many as six tickets in the same seating pod. Any remaining tickets for the Ravens and Giants games will go on sale to the general public at a later date.

“We have been working very closely with state and local officials, public health experts, and the National Football League on a number of scenarios to safely bring Eagles fans back to Lincoln Financial Field,” said Eagles president Don Smolenski. “After many thoughtful and active discussions, we are thrilled to announce that the fan experience will return to Lincoln Financial Field this Sunday.

“On behalf of the Philadelphia Eagles, I would like to thank Governor Wolf, Mayor Kenney, and their respective representatives for the support and guidance over these past few months. We will all continue to stay in close communication and will be prepared to adjust and adapt as needed.”

As part of this work and preparation in recent months, the Eagles and Lincoln Financial Field achieved Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC) STAR accreditation for implementing the most stringent protocols for cleaning, disinfection, and infectious disease prevention.

Meanwhile, with COVID-19 restrictions still preventing the Saints from having fans attend Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the team yesterday met with LSU to discuss hosting games at the 102,321-capacity Tiger Stadium, with supporters in the stands.

The successful conclusion of talks could see around 21,000 Saints fans in place at Tiger Stadium for the next home game against the Carolina Panthers on October 25. While 15 of the NFL’s 32 teams are now hosting games with fans in their stadia, the Saints have been forced to go without due to New Orleans regulations.

Saints head of communications Greg Bensel told the NOLA.com website that while the team wants to remain at their stadium, talks have commenced with LSU because “there has been no indication from the city when, or if” the Saints proposal to return fans to the Superdome will be approved. “LSU has been gracious and enthusiastic regarding hosting our future games and we very much appreciate their partnership,” Bensel said.

The City of New Orleans is still discussing the Saints’ request to have 25% capacity at the Superdome for the Panthers game. New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said in a statement: “While the Saints’ request for a special exception to the city’s COVID-19 guidelines remains under consideration, allowing 20K people in an indoor space presents significant public health concerns.

“At present, no NFL stadium in the country with a fixed-roof facility is allowing such an exception. We will continue to monitor the public health data, but cannot set an artificial timeline for how and when conditions may allow for the kind of special exemption being requested.”

If the Saints do move to Tiger Stadium, the games will be their first outside New Orleans since 2005-06, when damage to the Superdome from Hurricane Katrina sent the team to San Antonio and Baton Rouge.

Image: Lincoln Financial Field