KANSAS CITY, MO – The Kansas City Sports Commission announced Friday that the Big 12 tournament will allow 20% of fans in each venue.
The men’s tournament is played in the T-Mobile Center and the women in the Municipal Arena in the convention center. The tournament will take place March 10-14.
“Both venues have worked with and will continue to work with the Kansas City Health Department to ensure that the health and safety of all employees, guests and student athletes come first,” said Kathy Nelson, President and CEO of Greater Kansas City Sports Commission.
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The venues will increasingly have signage and logs promoting social distancing and the mandatory wearing of masks.
Although fans can return to the venues, events around the tournament will be different.
“We’re not going to have a Fan Fest on Grand Boulevard, nor are we going to have pep rallies in the Power & Light District,” said Nelson. “The Kansas City Big 12 Run will be held virtually and participants will receive a unique finisher medal that resembles the basketball court.”
On March 11, 2020, the opening round of the Big 12 tournament ended with the usual excitement and fanfare. It was the same date that COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic. There were encouraging rallies with bands, cheerleaders and of course fans. Alex Whirley was in that crowd.
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“Honestly, I’m having a great time with all of the out-of-towers, love basketball, so we just came here, socialized for a while,” she said.
But it was a day of constant development. First, the NCAA announced that March Madness would be played without fans, then the Big 12 said they would follow suit the next day.
That night, as games resumed at Sprint Center, now the T-Mobile Center, the NBA had suspended its season when Rudy Gobert tested positive and Tom Hanks announced he had COVID-19.
The next morning, the Big 12 tournament was the first of thousands of events in town that were canceled when life changed the way we knew it was.
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“Emotions, memories of a year ago are still very real. Fans are critical to the success of this event, but for this year of all years the most important thing has been to make sure we protect these student athletes, “said Nelson.
Companies like the nearby Rally House said these changes are likely to cost a large portion of the estimated $ 10 to 15 million that the tournament generates for the city annually.
“This year we expect fewer people due to the restrictions, but we expect some people to come in,” said Geonna Alexander, deputy manager of the rally house.
“I think the city we’ll be successful in if everyone doesn’t come into town and everyone has festivals,” Whirley said.
The convention center and urban arena are facilities of the Global Bio Risk Advisory Council and must follow similar protocols for cleaning, disinfecting, and preventing infectious diseases, Nelson said.
“In accordance with NCAA guidelines, the Big 12 conference, in collaboration with their medical team and the Kansas City, Missouri Department of Health, created a very detailed plan for the health and safety of athletes,” she added.
During the Big 12 tournament, the hospitality areas will be closed and facilities will follow city and health department guidelines on physical distancing and masking mandates unless you actively drink or eat while sitting on tickets.
Fans who buy tickets will receive a “know-before-you-go” email before each event, which is also available on the institution’s websites. Ticket information will be made available once the final capacity numbers are determined.
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