Although the restrictions on who can attend youth sports and high school athletic events have been eased, it will still require some planning to make that a reality, according to the athletic directors at Westerly High and Chariho High.
Spectators will no longer be limited to just the athletes’ parents/guardians and underage siblings, according to a statement issued by the Rhode Island Interscholastic League on Thursday.
Fans will still have to social distance but the capacity is now 500 for outdoor events and 250 indoors.
Westerly High athletic director Jamey Vetelino said the news is welcome.
“We are definitely happy to see we what we can open up,” Vetelino said. “It’s very difficult for a lot of families. We are trying to stay within the guidelines within reason. We will be promoting what the narrative really is — socially distance and wear your mask.”
Chariho AD Mike Shiels said a lot will have to happen before fans can return.
Practice for spring sports started Monday, with games set to begin on May 7.
“I will be meeting with the superintendent and the high school and middle school principals to look at our facilities and see what that means,” Shiels said. “Hopefully, we can get back to normal capacity, if allowed.
“We are still dealing with COVID; mask wearing will be essential. Athletes are still getting tested every week. We want the athletes to have their season without disruptions. It is a work in progress.”
Vetelino said he is confident Westerly will be able to have the maximum crowd of 500 at Augeri Field. He did say that number includes players and officials — anyone at the facility.
“I think game to game we will now who is coming — parents, grandparents and other relatives,” Vetelino said. “Opposing teams will have a certain amount of seating. We haven’t worked through all the details, but we may be able to have 100-150 tickets available at the door for the general public.”
Those tickets would be first come, first served.
Shiels said on some days in the spring Chariho might host up to five athletic events, which means spectators interested in both schools. The remaining high school and middle school teams will also be practicing.
“We have the potential for having a lot of people on our campus,” Shiels said. “We want to make sure we are making the right decisions with safety first.”
Shiels said additional Chariho staff may be needed at the various venues on campus when competitions are taking place.
Stations may also have to be created along fences for some of the venues at Chariho that have limited or no seating available.
The RIIL also announced that wrestling and competitive cheer will be allowed this spring. Boys volleyball will also be played indoors in the spring.
“We are looking at how to manage that,” Shiels said. “They want two mats for wrestling so they can clean one between bouts. It might be difficult for us to fit that in our gym. Those are all the things we will be looking at.”
Shiels, whose daughter Spencer Shiels was an All-Division II basketball performer in the winter, said having fans return to games is a good thing.
“Of course, we want spectators. One of the hardest things in the winter was only allowing senior parents to attend just one game,” Shiels said. “It was the safest thing to do. But it was very difficult. It’s great to see the guidelines changed so we can have more spectators.”