When the Kansas City Chiefs or Tampa Bay Buccaneers close out Sunday night’s Super Bowl as champions of the world, an unprecedented NFL season will likewise conclude.
As the season comes to its close, the NFL and the NFL Players Association are carrying on with COVID-19 protocols through the final second of the season in Tampa, Florida.
Thus, the Super Bowl and host Raymond James Stadium will look vastly different with the health and safety of all involved paramount at the big game. It’s brought about an abundance of safety protocols and even construction for a seating area for players not on the active roster and LED screens covering several rows of each section to allow a 20-foot buffer between fans and team personnel.
“All of that work is in the process of being done, but it is a key piece that we are all working through to get ready to keep the building safe and everyone in attendance safe,” NFL Events senior director Eric Finkelstein said.
The 75,000-capacity Raymond James Stadium will seat 25,000 fans and many of them will be vaccinated healthcare workers who will take in the big game as special guests.
“The NFL’s gift to our most important MVPs,” NFL Events director Daphne Wood said of bringing in 7,500 healthcare workers. “People who have literally put everything on the line to help us as a nation recover from COVID-19.”
Though only a third of the seats will be filled with fans, the remaining seats will not all be empty.
“What we’ve decided is to be able to space people out and still make it a really fun environment, in between the fans there will be these 30,000 cutouts are gonna bring our stadium together,” Wood said. “So people will be able to be in the stands without actually being in the stands.”
Each and every fan in attendance will be bestowed with personal protective equipment (PPE), which they’re required to wear as one of myriad safety protocols. Other protocols include maintaining at least 6 feet of social distance, presenting all tickets on mobile devices and staying home if experiencing any coronavirus-related symptoms.
“We’re going completely cashless,” Finkelstein said of one of the most prevalent safety measures.
In the case that a fan brings cash to the game, there will be reverse ATMs so fans can procure a card to purchase food and beverages.
Just as has been the case throughout the season, players, coaches and essential staff have gone through daily COVID-19 testing leading up to the Super Bowl. That applies for contract tracing protocols, as well.
On Sunday, the Chiefs’ and Bucs’ locker rooms will have a maximum of 40 non-player employees and no media members. Only game day personnel and team members will be allowed on the field with even practice squad and injured reserve players seated in a special section away from the field constructed specifically for the Super Bowl.
It will all culminate a very different kind of Super Bowl week in which multiple events were withheld or being held outside. Another major difference will be team travel, as the Chiefs won’t arrive for the big game until Saturday.
Almost to the finish of an unparalleled campaign, the NFL and NFLPA are still holding strong to protocols to ensure the safety of the players, coaches and everyone involved in the biggest game of the season.