During much of the past spring and early summer, there have been several sports-starved members of this editorial board who were beyond grateful to catch some Korean Baseball Organization games in the wee hours of the morning in order to get our fix. (The night owls among us are still watching, by the way.)
Fast-forward to late August and we’re also happily basking in the return of Major League Baseball while cheering on the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks and Stars, as playoffs are currently underway in the resumed NBA and NHL seasons.
We’re still holding our breaths, however, that the upcoming high school, college and professional football seasons will go off without a hitch.
Of course, nothing will look like it normally does, and hopefully we’ve all had a taste of that, what with everything from the empty baseball stadiums filled with cardboard cutouts of fans and canned crowd noise to the giant LED screens displaying the disembodied heads of folks watching at home during games played in the NBA “bubble.”
We just hope Lufkin Panther fans understand that Abe won’t look anything like it normally does either. And they’re crazy — not to mention, selfish — if they think they’re sitting in their usual seats.
You see, the coronavirus doesn’t care how long you’ve had season tickets or where those seats are located. It only cares that everyone pack the stadium and sit elbow to elbow so it can continue to spread through our community.
Or maybe you’re one of the many who believe the virus is a hoax — one heck of a swindle considering it’s infected more than 2,300 of our county’s citizens and killed 58 of them already.
The goal here is to keep everybody as safe as possible, and that’s bound to mean plenty of social distancing at games. And while Lufkin ISD has yet to issue its ticket and seating details, multiple Texas university officials have released some attendance information that should give the Pack faithful a pretty good idea of how this might look for us.
The latest directive from Gov. Greg Abbott limits stadium occupancy to no more than 50% of capacity. But the University of Texas is looking at further rolling back the limit to only 25% of Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium’s 100,000 capacity.
Similarly, Texas Tech University officials are capping stadium capacity at 25%, so around 15,000 fans will be allowed into Jones AT&T Stadium, which has a listed capacity of 60,454 seats. Associate Athletics Director Robert Giovannetti previously said around 3,000 seats will be reserved for student seating, in contrast to the roughly 13,400 seats reserved for students last year.
Texas A&M University’s Kyle Field also will limit its 110,000-fan capacity to 25%. With limited seating, all season ticket holders will be prioritized while student seating will be reduced.
And Baylor University also is capping McLane Stadium’s capacity at 25%, opening the door for around 11,000 fans. In a statement to the Texas Tribune, athletics officials said they would reevaluate capacity restrictions as the season goes forward.
We have no idea yet whether Lufkin ISD officials will allow 50% capacity at Abe Martin Stadium or follow the universities’ lead and reduce it to 25%. But we’ve heard rumors that the band and drill team will be stationed on the track rather than in their customary seats in the stands.
Again, it’s just too soon to say exactly how games will look at Abe. But unlike at the aforementioned universities, we believe there will be plenty of room for everyone who wants to attend Panthers games to do so.
And if our kids can practice in 100-degree August heat in face masks, we see no reason for any member of Panther Nation to cry about sitting somewhere other than where they’re accustomed to for one season. Not to mention, fans also will have the opportunity to watch Panther games via live media stream. Or, as always, you can turn on your radio and crank up Big Nasty!
There are far more important things to concern yourself with this season than where you sit at the game. As long as our players and fans remain safe and healthy, we’ll chalk this season up as a win in our books.