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Alamodome Sets Stringent COVID-19 Precautions For Valero Alamo Bowl As Cases Surge in San Antonio

Edward Miranda, event service coordinator the Alamodome, holds a sign displaying the Alamodome's mask policy
Joey Palacios/TPR
Edward Miranda, event service coordinator the Alamodome, holds a sign displaying the Alamodome's mask policy

The Alamodome is gearing up to host several thousand people during the Valero Alamo Bowl Tuesday night amid increasing COVID-19 cases in Bexar County.

The match-up will pit the University of Texas against the University of Colorado in the annual bowl game sponsored by San Antonio-based Valero Energy Corporation. But this year the normally 65,000 capacity Alamodome - which is owned by the city - will be reduced to a max occupancy of 11,000 attendees. The game will take place on the same day businesses in Bexar County are forced to roll back to 50% occupancy under emergency orders from Governor Greg Abbott.

On Monday, Alamodome and Alamo Bowl officials offered members of the media a tour of the facilities to observe COVID-19 precautions.

Some of the updates and health and safety plan include contactless ticket entry into the Alamodome using smartphones; assigned entry points into the building based on your ticket; temperature checks; spacing between seats where entire rows are blocked off; and the ability to order food from your seat.

Joey Palacios/TPR
Seats in the Alamodome area spaced out to where what used to seat 65,000 would now seat 11,000 patrons.

“It follows all state and local health directives and focuses on risk mitigation, strategies that promote the safety of athletes, the fans, and the staff,” said Patricia Muzquiz Cantor, director of the City of San Antonio’s Convention and Sports facilities department who added the plan requires everyone to do their part.

The City has spent about $1 million in federal coronavirus relief funding to institute social distancing equipment and procedures at the Alamodome.

The Alamodome will operate at 17% of its total capacity for the Alamo Bowl — well below the newly enacted 50% capacity mandated for Bexar County on Tuesday.

Hospitalizations for COVID-19 are now at 1,079; a number not seen since July 29 as hospilzitons began to crest downward from a high of 1,263. COVID-19 patients have occupied more than 15% of San Antonio hospital capacity for 7 consecutive days which triggered the rollback to 50%.

During Tuesday night’s COVID-19 briefing, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg was asked about the discrepancy between businesses reducing crowd size but the Alamodome continuing its events. Nirenberg said it was not an apples to oranges comparison.

Flora Gephart, an employee with the City of San Antonio, holds a sign asking for patrons to wear a mask as they enter the Alamodome
Joey Palacios/TPR
Flora Gephart, an employee with the City of San Antonio, holds a sign asking for patrons to wear a mask as members of the media the Alamodome

“There are significant restrictions at the Alamodome as there have been for several months now,” Nirenberg said, noting the reduced capacity. “The crowd will be wearing masks and the spacing is set up to ensure there is no physical interaction with people, it’s a highly regulated event, a highly regulated environment and those who don’t comply with that they’re going to be removed."

Earlier on Monday, The San Antonio Spurs organization announced it will continue to play without fans at the AT&T Center, walking back plans to allow a limited number of fans beginning January 1st.

Spurs Sports & Entertainment CEO RC Buford said while they're confident in the plans and protocols they have in place, they're uncomfortable hosting fans at this moment. Over the last five months, SS&E has made numerous updates designed to enhance health and safety protocols at the AT&T Center.

The Alamodome is a much larger facility than the AT&T Center, which can seat at maximum 18,500 people.

When asked about why the Alamodome and Alamo Bowl did not take similar action, Muzquiz Cantor noted that the Alamodome has hosted 20 similar events - including UTSA football games - and that no outbreaks of the coronavirus had been traced back to them.

Joey Palacios/TPR

“We really feel very comfortable with the safety protocols. We would not be hosting events if we didn’t think that we had the measures in place to be able to host events with fans in the building,” she said.

Derrick Fox, president and CEO of the Alamo Bowl, said he didn’t feel there was any need to postpone or cancel the game.

“I think in the state of Texas we’ll have seven bowl games. I think two have already occurred, one of which our own UTSA participated in, thank goodness - great experience for them - we look forward to having a great experience here tomorrow night,” Fox said.

Fox said ticket sales were currently below the 11,000 cap but that number was changing by the hour.

Attendees who have a temperature over 99.6 degrees will undergo a second screening. If they do not pass a second check, they will not be allowed into the stadium and their ticket will be refunded.

Once inside the stadium, attendees are expected to follow all of the COVID-19 protocols such as mask wearing and social distancing.

Cardboard fans take up the end zone near the goal for Colorado in the Alamodome.
Joey Palacios/TPR
Cardboard fans take up the end zone near the goal for Colorado in the Alamodome.

Steve Zito, general manager for the Alamodome says Alamo Bowl attendees who do not wear a facemask will be given 3 chances to put one on.

“If at that point the person refuses to put their mask on they will be written a citation and at that point they’ll be ejected out of the building,” Zito said.

That citation is $250 and their ticket to the event will not be refunded.

TPR’s Steve Short and Kathleen Creedon contributed to this report.

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Joey Palacios can be reached atJoey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules