SIDNEY — Sidney High School’s soccer stadium will barely get used this fall. But athletic director Mitch Hoying is happy the reason why isn’t because games aren’t being played, but rather they’re being played next door.
Almost all of Sidney’s boys and girls soccer matches this season will be played at Sidney Memorial Stadium. The move from the adjacent smaller facility to Sidney Memorial Stadium is a result of the state government’s order that limits spectator capacity at venues hosting sporting events to 15 percent.
“That allows more people to attend,” Hoying said. “We usually don’t draw that many, so moving to Sidney Memorial was really a way to promote social distancing while allowing people to see their kids.”
The spectator limit was included in an order released last Wednesday by the Ohio Department of Health. The order allows for all sports to play games for the first time since the state government banned such activities and other large group gatherings in March when COVID-19 first started to spread around the state.
Boys and girls soccer teams around the Ohio were three days away from when regular-season play was supposed to start according to the Ohio High School Athletic Association calendar before they were actually given permission from state officials to play.
Soccer — along with football and field hockey — was deemed a contact sport by the state government and hadn’t been given permission to play games before last Wednesday’s ODOH order. All other OHSAA fall sports had already been given permission by the state government to begin competition.
“We’re playing games right now, so that’s great,” Hoying said. “…We’re taking it day-by-day. Our goals are modest: I’m hoping to have two teams in the right location on time and hoping to have officials for every game. If we can just meet those goals, we’ll play the game.”
The 12-page order includes many protocols any organization conducting sporting events must adhere to. The protocols are designed to limit person-to-person contact and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The spectator limit is the biggest protocol of all. Outdoor venues are allowed to fill 15 percent of permanent fixed seating up to a cap of 1,500. Indoor venues are allowed to fill up to 15 percent of permanent seating up to a cap of 300.
The 15 percent cap means the maximum amount of spectators at Sidney Memorial Stadium is 1,125 while the maximum amount of spectators in the high school’s gymnasium is 225.
For football games, Sidney players, cheerleaders and band members will be allowed to purchase five tickets per game to distribute to family and friends. An allotment of 125 tickets will be set aside for other Sidney students to purchase; they’ll be allowed to purchase one ticket.
Some tickets will be allotted for visiting schools to distribute. Sidney season ticket holders will be allowed to purchase whatever tickets are left.
All tickets will cost $5 and be sold on a presale basis; no tickets will be sold at the game, and no general admission tickets will be sold. In addition, the school is not selling any season passes this year or honoring Miami Valley League passes.
“We didn’t do that to try to make an extra buck,” Hoying said. “It was more about the fact that we didn’t know how many games we were going to get in and we couldn’t guarantee money would be well spent (buying season passes). So we figured pay-as-you-go would be the easiest way to make sure nobody got shorted.”
Tickets for soccer and volleyball games will cost $6 for adults and $4 for students and be sold on a general admission basis at the gate at Sidney Memorial Stadium and the school’s gymnasium, respectively.
Ticketing procedures are similar at all other MVL schools but will vary based on stadium/gymnasium size and other factors.
Sidney’s football squad will open the season on Friday at Greenville. Sidney was allotted about 150 tickets by Greenville and is allowing its players and cheerleaders to purchase two tickets each to distribute.
“No school is hoarding tickets for themselves,” Hoying said. “Schools are limited and don’t have the same (capacity) we do. …We need to be patient everywhere we go because every single athletic director at every single school is making the most of what they have.”
Those who will be able to attend games with have to adhere to safety protocols outlined in the ODOH order.
Face coverings must be worn by all admitted to the event and Hoying said no one will be admitted unless they’re wearing a face covering. Spectators can sit in groups of no more than four people unless they live in the same household. Groups or individuals sitting alone must be separated by six feet from other groups/individuals at the venue.
“At the end of the day, if you want to keep playing, you need to follow the guidelines,” Hoying said. “If you don’t follow the guidelines, the governor and the OHSAA will get involved. So if you want your kids to keep playing, you need to wear your mask. …You’re not really wearing a mask for yourself, you’re wearing a mask so the kids on the field can keep playing.”
The safety protocols mandated by the ODOH will be enforced by the OHSAA. The association is launching an inspector’s program where designated individuals will be sent to games throughout the state to ensure mandates are being followed. The OHSAA said the program is intended to be educational but said it will impose penalties if violations are severe enough.
“We’re pretty comfortable with our ticketing process and feel within the parameters of the (heath mandates),” Hoying said. “Are there going to be people who don’t follow all the rules? Probably. Are they going to be asked nicely to follow the rules? Yes.”
Like many other schools, Sidney is working on video broadcast options to enable those who can’t attend to have an avenue to watch games.
Assistant principal Greg Snyder will be leading live broadcasts of some games — including Friday’s football opener at Greenville — on the school’s YouTube page. Snyder taught a media production class at the school before becoming an assistant principal last year.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.