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Take a Seat: Wolf's new capacity rules help some, others not as much

Moniteau's Emma Barkley, a senior on the dance and drill team, bundled up during the high school's football game Friday. A new tiered system of seating restrictions that goes into effect this coming Friday will affect football crowds.

The numbers 25 and 250 will soon be a thing of the past in terms of people allowed at indoor and outdoor public gatherings in Pennsylvania.

For now.

Gov. Tom Wolf and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine announced Tuesday that attendance at public venues will be allowable on a percentage basis. That move will be effective Friday.

Outdoor venues with seating capacity of 2,000 or fewer can be filled to 25% capacity, 2,001 to 10,000 to 20%, more than 10,000 to 15%.

Indoor venues holding up to 2,000 people can be filled to 20% capacity, 2,001-10,000 to 15%, more than 10,000 to 10%.

“Pennsylvanians must continue to social distance and wear masks as we prepare to fight the virus through the fall and winter,” Wolf said in a prepared statement. “Those things are still imperative to stopping the spread of COVID-19.

“We know everyone has sacrificed in many ways and today's announcement reflects a gradual adjustment to our lives as we learn how we can do things safely until we have a cure, or an effective vaccine is widely available.”

Levine emphasized this relaxing of restrictions on gatherings is subject to change.

“We will closely monitor cases and outbreaks and if our case investigation and contact tracing efforts determine that events or gatherings are the source of an outbreak, we can and will dial back these new limits,” she said in a statement.

That's why Slippery Rock Area High School athletic director Dan Follett isn't holding his breath.

“Our gym holds 1,000 people, so we're allowed to let 200 in,” Follett said. “That helps our volleyball situation a little bit. Now all of the players can be on the benches instead of in hallways.

“Basketball would be another story. We get about 500 fans for our (boys and girls) games. But that's two months away. We've had four or five changes (from the governor's office) already this fall. A lot can happen between now and then.”

A Judeo-Christian Revival is slated for Michelle Krill Field at Historic Pullman Park on Saturday. Dean Selfridge, stadium operations manager, said that event is unaffected by Wolf's latest ruling.“I believe religious gatherings like this are exempt anyway,” Selfridge said.The ballpark has a Slippery Rock University baseball showcase scheduled Sunday, youth baseball invitational Oct. 17, a home run derby Oct. 18, and a cheerleading competition Oct. 24.“(Wolf's announcement) is welcome news for some of those events, especially the cheerleading,” Selfridge said. “Some parents will be allowed in to watch, whereas before they may not have gotten in.”Pullman Park has a seating capacity of 1,400, meaning 350 people can now be present for events inside the park.

Two rivalry football games scheduled Friday — Mars coming to Knoch and Grove City visiting Slippery Rock — will be affected differently.Knoch's stadium holds 3,300, meaning 660 may be at the venue for the game. The Mars game is also Knoch's homecoming.“We have to account for football players, band members, cheerleaders, parents, homecoming court people ... it adds up in a hurry,” Knoch athletic director Kurt Reiser said. “We will try to accommodate parents of Mars players as well.“The increase in allowable numbers does give our kids more of a return to normalcy for homecoming week. We're excited about that.”Slippery Rock's football stadium seats 3,000, meaning 600 will be allowed in. Follett indicated the school will handle the Grove City game the same way it handled the Rockets' home game with Hickory two weeks ago.“We were able to have about 600 at that game, so this ruling doesn't change much for us,” Follett said. “Tickets will be distributed. We won't be selling tickets at the gate.“Anyone showing up looking to buy a ticket that night will be turned away.”

Freeport hosts Knoch in a rivalry volleyball match Thursday that would normally pack the gym. With Wolf's relaxed spectator restrictions not in effect until Friday, the limit of 25 people in the gym remains Thursday.That 25-person limit is also in effect for Wednesday's Freeport home volleyball match, which is also the Yellowjackets' Senior Night.“This is so disappointing,” Freeport volleyball coach Tom Phillips said. “Parents won't even be able to attend their kids' Senior Night.“When the governor presents a new mandate like this, why can't it go into effect right away? This is so frustrating for so many people, kids and adults alike.“We played a match at Mars the other night and we had players in the hallway, away from everyone else. Then, we all ride home on a bus together. I don't get this ... I don't get it at all,” Phillips added.Knoch will be permitted to have 210 people in its gym for home volleyball matches once the softened restriction takes effect.“At least both teams can be in the gym,” Reiser said. “It's a step in the right direction. We have 33 girls on our varsity/junior varsity roster, so it was hard even conducting pre-game warmups. At least that's all going to change.”

Butler has two home football games remaining. Art Bernardi Stadium has a seating capacity of 6,500, meaning 1,300 can be at the venue for a game.That will bring the band back to games, but not much else will change, Butler athletic director Bill Mylan said.“That (1,300) sounds like a lot, but it really isn't,” Mylan said. “Our band has 192 members. You give out four tickets to football parents, band parents, two each for the visiting team's players, they dry up.“For volleyball, we can have 400 in the gym. That should handle our normal attendance figure there. Basketball will be different.“I'm not sure what we'll do there. We've had to turn fans away at home basketball games recently. Now, we'll probably be able to give four tickets to each player and not much else,” Mylan added.

The Starlight Drive-In theatre in Center Township has hosted concerts and graduations among other civic events in recent months.Wolf's latest ruling will have no impact on the facility, co-owner Beth Manson said Tuesday.“Everything we have here is attendance by vehicle,” she said. “No one gets out of their cars and they have to be parked so many feet apart.“This ruling will not concern us. We're a unique venue in that people drive in and drive out without ever leaving their vehicle.“We've stayed ahead of the game that way,” Manson added.