Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC’s match against New Mexico United on Saturday at Weidner Field was one of the first professional sporting events in America with fans in attendance, and the supporters’ experience seemed closely linked to expectation.
Andy Franko, a season-ticket holder for the last few seasons, and his wife attended Saturday and found the health protocols — social distancing, a stadium divided into quadrants, the preference for card transactions instead of cash and the recommendation to wear masks — to be almost exactly what they were for last week’s intrasquad scrimmage. Cooperation with those guidelines ranged, as few wore masks at their seats.
“We kind of knew what to expect. Pretty simple, if they want you to wear a mask, I’m good with that,” Franko said, pulling up his neck scarf as he stood in line for a drink. “I’m just glad to be back and be outside and enjoy the game.”
The experience was a little different for Tom Barton and his group of five that has been sitting together for the past four seasons. When they showed up Saturday, the saw only a few green check marks, a sign that someone is allowed in that seat, in their normal section.
“We can’t sit with our friends, but we can sit here and drink. Because we’re not passing COVID here?” Barton asked as he exchanged his beer with another member of his party and drank.
“The biggest inconvenience is we literally all sit together for four seasons and now we can’t.”
Barton also expressed frustration with communication from the Colorado Springs club, especially regarding reimbursements for season-ticket holders after the home slate was cut in half, while another fan complained he couldn't leave his quadrant to get to his preferred concession stand.
Ahmed Jakmouj, a University of Kansas student interning with the Switchbacks this summer, manned the northwest entrance to the stadium and said few people gave him problems.
“Today, I’m pretty much just checking everybody’s tickets, making sure that they’re in the right gates, because that’s a big part of what we’re trying to do with reducing the spread of COVID-19. We’re trying to keep everybody in their section,” he said just before informing a fan they could not bring their bag in because it wasn’t transparent, another club guideline.
“Everybody’s been pretty good with it and willing to do their part.”
Also similar to last week, the Switchbacks stood for the anthem and knelt during a moment of silence. Select members of New Mexico United and the three officials took a knee during the anthem, while the entire visiting squad took the field in shirts that read “United Against Racism” before the action started.
“I haven’t been inconvenienced at all," Franko said. "It is what it is. I think people expect it might be a little different than we’ve seen in the past, but you know given the situation we’re in and the amount of things like this that are actually happening, I’m just happy to be here.”