Long Beach State student athletes have played their recent games to empty arenas. Beginning this weekend, restrictions have been lifted allowing fans to attend in-person games for the first time in over a year, the athletics department announced Monday.
The news was anticipated after the Dirtbags announced they would allow student athlete families to attend the series against Cal Poly April 10 and 11. About three dozen families scattered the stands over the weekend in Bohl Diamond at Blair Field.
“It’s nice to have people in the stands, we’ve been looking forward to having crowds back,” Dirtbags head coach Eric Valenzuela said post-game. “My family was here and for the [players] to have their family in the stands is special.”
The ease in restrictions follows the pro sports trend of filling arenas at limited capacity. Since Long Beach is in the orange tier of the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy, the school is permitted to have up to 33% of full capacity in its arenas, provided that there are individual pods separating each household by six feet.
According to Athletics Director Andy Fee, the 33% does not only include fans being permitted, but also accounts for the athletes, coaches and staff. The number of fans allowed will change with each venue and possibly for each game or series.
Families of the student athletes will be given first priority to all games, “which will take up all available seating for [the] majority of Long Beach State’s spring sports,” according to the announcement sent out by Assistant Athletics Director Roger Kirk.
Softball, women’s water polo, track and field and beach volleyball games will not be available for fans to attend, as each venue will be filled up by athlete’s family members. Women’s soccer will be hosting a “non-championship competition” this spring, which will also only be available to family members.
Men’s volleyball has one remaining home game left while the Dirtbags have three home series remaining on their schedule. Tickets will be given each Long Beach State player “to allow one household of family members to attend games,” according to the announcement.
The remaining available seats will be sold online, according to a tiered schedule that gives priority to Beach Athletic Fund members who have donated to the program and have season tickets for either 2019 or 2020.
During weeks with a home series, beginning Thursday tickets will be sold to members who have donated $5,000 or more from 10 a.m. to noon, to members who have donated $1,000 or more from noon to 2 p.m. and to members of any donation level from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Season ticket-holders who are not Beach Athletics Fund members can purchase tickets each Thursday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., and any remaining tickets will be sold to the general public on Fridays.
Games will be sold as a weekend series, not per individual game, for the remainder of the year. Seats will only be sold in “pods” of four, with no refunds for possible game cancelations or postponements.
Fans attending games must fill out the University Health Screen Questionnaire each day they attend a game and be able to show the information upon entry. Masks will be worn at all times, and social distancing rules must be followed. There will be no concession stands, but fans can bring in pre-packaged food and non-alcoholic beverages.
Although fans will have to adjust to a “new normal” while attending games, the change is a sign of progress in the right direction, and sure to provide a morale boost for Long Beach athletes.
“One of the greatest motivators is that you play for others, your teammates, your campus, your community,” Fee said. “A great part about Long Beach State is that our athletes get to meet fans and get to know them. We all miss it.”