Yihyun Jeong and Brett Kelman
Published 6:25 PM EDT Sep 16, 2020
Nashville officials are set to announce Thursday that a limited number fans will be allowed to attend Tennessee Titans’ games at Nissan Stadium, according to multiple people familiar with the plan.
Eased restrictions will not be in place for the Titans’ home opener on Sunday against rival Jacksonville Jaguars. But there is a team sweepstakes for a fan to win two passes to the game.
City officials previously said there would be no fans allowed at home games through the end of September. The next home game would be Oct. 4 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Mayor John Cooper and the city’s COVID-19 task force are set to outline guidelines for fans at the 70,000 seat stadium at an in-person press conference Thursday morning, outside the city’s new Titans mural downtown. Titans President Burke Nihill is expected to be in attendance for a join-statement.
It’s not clear what crowd capacity restrictions the city will set but plans to allow crowds will likely impact the Nashville Soccer Club, which also plays at Nissan Stadium.
The city last month said the stadium will remain empty due to the ongoing pandemic at least through September, with the Major League Soccer season underway and the National Football League games starting this past week, as officials warned against the potential for it to become a superspreading event.
Restrictions, Cooper had said, may be eased based on improvements in the city’s COVID-19 numbers and the experiences of other NFL and MLS games in other cities.
The change comes as Nashville’s coronavirus outbreak continues to wane. Infections and hospitalizations steadily fell in recent weeks, and this month the city’s weekly positivity rate has dropped below 6% for the first time since May. Active infections, which peaked in July at nearly 6,000, have fallen to about 1,100.
Cooper extended curfew for Nashville bars and restaurants on Monday until 10:30 p.m., for fans to watch the Titans’ season opener against the Denver Broncos.
The reversal in allowing crowds come as Metro is beginning to loosen restrictions in the city, including allowing venues and the public to submit applications to hold events for up to 125 people.
Metro Public Health Department Director Dr. Michael Caldwell has already allowed racing fans to attend races at the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway, which he said was being used as a model for other sports and entertainment outdoor venues in town to follow when fans are allowed to return.
Capacity has been capped to 20% — 2,550 fans — and fans are required to have their temperature taken, wear protective masks and practice social distancing. Alcohol sales, for the first time this season, was allowed last weekend at the venue.
“I am continuing to do strategic pilot planning with certain venues and (Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway) is one we’ve had experience with,” Caldwell said last Thursday while on a conference call with Metro Council members. “We took a pause and canceled the last one, and now we are working with them again to pilot the outdoor events to help us learn. That’s within my ability to provide those strategic pilot efforts. There are other ones that I am considering on a case-by-case basis to help us with our learning as we make decisions to reopen.”
The NFL has left it up to local officials to make the call on whether to let fans attend pro football games.
Nihill previously said Titans players and staff are tested daily for coronavirus in a testing facility constructed at the team headquarters. While Nashville SC CEO Ian Ayre said players are tested every two days with an additional test prior to travel. Both teams expect visiting competitors to take similar precautions, team officials said.
Includes reporting by Mike Organ and Erik Bacharach.
Yihyun Jeong covers politics in Nashville for USA TODAY NETWORK – TENNESSEE. Reach her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @yihyun_jeong.