The 2020 high school fall sports seasons will kick off this weekend and while many schools are still left wondering the fate of their fans, most area teams already have guidelines in place.
Cut Bank, Shelby and Sunburst will all allow both home and away fans to attend football and volleyball contests with certain restrictions, of course. Valier was scheduled to make a final decision following a special Aug. 25 board meeting and Browning had already decided to keep fans from attending contests.
Cut Bank and Shelby each will require face coverings for all spectators while players, managers, coaches, etc. will be required to wear a face covering while not actively participating in the competition. This would require players on the sidelines or on the bench to wear a face covering that may be removed when they enter the contest.
Both schools are also requiring that children 12 years of age or younger remain with an adult at all times and that physical distancing is required at all athletic events.
In Cut Bank, each visiting and home player will receive four ticket vouchers for fans. The vouchers must be presented at the gate and the entry fee of $7 for adults and $5 for seniors and students be paid. Designated entrances at the gym will be used for home and away fans while all fans will use the same entrance at the football field.
The football fields in both Cut Bank and Shelby have a large enough viewing area to accommodate a large group while allowing appropriate physical distancing. As long as fans are responsible in practicing appropriate physical distancing, both schools are hopeful to avoiding further restrictions.
Shelby will be allowing full admission up to 75% capacity in their gym for volleyball games. There will be designated sections for home and visiting fans as well as for a Shelby student section. Once seated, fans will be required to remain in their seating section. Each section will have a designated entrance and exit tunnel.
Neither Cut Bank nor Shelby will have concessions to open the fall seasons but both will be evaluating the situation as the season progresses.
Sunburst will also allow both home and away fans for both volleyball and football this fall. In the gym for volleyball games, there will be designated seating “pods” of 50 for home fans, students and away fans ensuring safety and separation.
For Refiner football games, fans that choose to sit in the stands or walk the track are encouraged to wear their mask and respect social distancing. Fans who choose to sit in their vehicles will be able to tune into “99.9 The Burst,” an FM radio frequency the school purchased last spring to hear the PA announcer.
Sunburst will have concessions to open the fall season with prewrapped food, pop and candy to speed up concessions so that crowds do not build up and cause a health and safety hazard.
According to Athletic Director Jeff Nix, all schools in the District 10-C will be allowing fans with the exception of Heart Butte.
“Heart Butte will be unique in that the Blackfeet Tribal Council has decided to keep the reservation closed until further notice,” he said. “However, at this time they will allow officials and visiting teams to come in and play at the school. There will be no home or visiting fans and parents will have to watch the games streamed online on the NFHS network, so Heart Butte games will be played at home to an empty gym and field.”
According to Nix, all 10-C schools have the capabilities to stream games online at the NFHS Network.
Cut Bank and Shelby as well as many of the District 1B teams also have the capabilities to live stream their home contests.
Fans interested in watching games online can visit www.nfhsnetwork.com to set up an account. A yearly subscription costs $69.99 while a monthly pass can be purchased for $10.99 and can be cancelled at any time.
All area schools have acknowledged that these guidelines are open to change and fans should follow up on both home and away contests to ensure there’s no confusion on attendance.
This newspaper will do our best to continue to update guidelines area schools have set in place not only in the paper but on our website and Facebook pages.