The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has announced that a limited number of fans will be permitted for its upcoming Division I Men’s Basketball Championship, also known as March Madness.
Fans will be allowed during all rounds of the tournament, including the Final Four, with capacity to be restricted to 25%. Social distancing will be required, in line with state and local health authorities.
The NCAA confirmed last month that the entirety of the tournament would be played in Indiana, with the city of Indianapolis to stage the majority of games. Selection Sunday is scheduled for March 4 and the Final Four is set to be held on April 3-4.
Games will be played on two courts inside Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts. Further games will be played at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, home of the NBA’s Indiana Pacers, as well as Indiana Farmers Coliseum, Mackey Arena and Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
The 25% event capacity will include all participants, essential staff and family members of each participating team’s student-athletes and coaches, and a reduced number of fans. Mask-wearing will be required, with all venues to undergo thorough cleaning and disinfecting.
The NCAA has worked with local authorities on formalising the health and safety protocols for the tournament. As well as face coverings and physical distancing, COVID-19 testing and contact tracing will be required before teams arrive and throughout their stay.
NCAA president Mark Emmert said: “We continue to use the knowledge we have gained over the season on how to conduct games in a safe environment. I want to thank our host universities and conferences, the Indiana State Health Department, and the leaders in the Marion, Monroe and Tippecanoe county health departments as they help make that possible.”
The NCAA was forced to cancel last year’s March Madness due to COVID-19.
In other news, the Milwaukee Brewers Major League Baseball team has submitted a 350-page proposal to the City of Milwaukee Health Department calling for 35% capacity at American Family Field for its season opener against the Minnesota Twins on April 1.
If approved, it would mean that the Brewers will be able to welcome between 14,500 and 16,000 spectators to the stadium.
Elsewhere, the Columbus Blue Jackets NHL ice hockey team has been cleared to open Nationwide Arena at 10% capacity for home games, starting from March 2 for the game against the Detroit Red Wings.
The approval from the Ohio Department of Health will allow 1,953 fans to attend games. Current season ticket holders will receive priority access to single-game tickets.