Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC will play a role in a big day for the United Soccer League.
Barring a last-minute change, the USL will become the first American professional sports league to host matches in front of fans in home markets on Saturday.
The Switchbacks are limiting capacity at Weidner Field to 1,000 with tickets available only to season ticket holders for the 6 p.m. match against Group C opponent New Mexico United.
To make things safer, James Ragain, an executive vice president, said the club is dividing the stadium, which typically sells out at around 5,000 attendants, into quadrants that can hold up to 250 people.
Fans are asked to park at the entrance closest to their seats and use the concession stands and bathrooms in their designated quarter of the stadium. Other safety measures, which can be found on the club’s social media pages, include the preference for cash transactions, the wearing of masks, social distancing and only allowing clear bags in the stadium. The whole system got a test run at last week’s intrasquad scrimmage.
“We got a lot of positive feedback from the fans,” Ragain said.
“It’s not convenient, but they understand what we’re trying to do.”
The only change anticipated for Saturday, Ragain said, are new signs to make the protocols even clearer.
With more eyeballs on the league - some of Saturday’s matches will be streamed on ESPN networks - coach Alan Koch said it’s imperative that fans focus on safety to make the most out of the return to play.
“It is huge, I think, provided it’s done right, obviously,” Koch said. “We live in such precarious times where things are definitely still in the balance. I think provided we’re following all the medical protocols - which we are, very stringently - and we need our fans to do that, too. I think it’s a great occasion, and I think it’s very special to be a part of that because at the end of the day it’s more than just sport. It’s about life. It’s about people coming together and community and embracing an occasion. I feel fortunate to be a part of that tomorrow night.”