Cuyahoga Falls, Woodridge start high school sports seasons with attendance restrictions

Only 15% of stadium capacity can be used in Falls; Woodridge gets variance

Phil Keren
Kent Weeklies
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, attendance at Cuyahoga Falls High School's football games at Clifford Stadium this season will be restricted to 15% of the venue's capacity. The Black Tigers will play their first football game on Sept. 4.

CUYAHOGA FALLS — Both the Cuyahoga Falls and Woodridge school districts are moving forward with their high school sports seasons, but attendance at some venues will be restricted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Cuyahoga Falls City School District had initially postponed the start of moderate- to high-contact sports until Oct. 1, a move which aligned with a recommendation made in late July by Summit County Public Health. The district changed course after Gov. Mike DeWine on Aug. 18 announced that contact sports could move forward with scrimmages and games.

Superintendent Dr. Todd Nichols announced that contact sports in the district will now start in early September. Football, cheerleading and marching band are all scheduled to start on Sept. 4, while soccer will begin on Sept. 1. In the non-contact sports category, cross country, volleyball, golf and girls tennis have already started their competitions.

"Our rationale for exploring this is two-fold," wrote Nichols. "Because 'return to play' is voluntary and in smaller groups, we have put guidelines in place where teams can be assembled in manipulated spaces to ensure health and safety. And, in sports, parents and students have a choice if they don't feel comfortable in participating."

Across town, the Woodridge Board of Education on Aug. 18 unanimously backed a motion to move forward with its contact sports — football and soccer — this fall. The vote occurred on the same day that DeWine announced that high school contact sports in the state can move ahead with competition.

Attendance policies established

The athletic departments for both Cuyahoga Falls and Woodridge high schools have issued rules and guidelines for spectators attending the games during the 2020-21 school year.

The Ohio Department of Health has put a maximum capacity limit on stadiums and indoor facilities. Attendance at outdoor stadiums are restricted to the lesser of 1,500 individuals or 15% of fixed seating capacity. For indoor venues, attendance is restricted to the lesser of 300 individuals or 15% of fixed seating capacity.

Nichols' letter stated the Cuyahoga Falls High School Athletic Department will not give out passes to games this season. The maximum number of people allowed at each Cuyahoga Falls High School venue will be as follows: Clifford Stadium, 1,095; Laybourne Field, 150; and the gymnasium, 300.

For home football games, four tickets will be issued to each player, cheerleader, and marching band member for immediate family/household members. Visiting teams will receive two tickets for each player and cheerleader.

For home volleyball games, four tickets will be issued to each freshman, JV and varsity player for immediate family/household members. For home boys and girls soccer games, four tickets will be issued to each JV and varsity player for immediate family/household members. For volleyball and soccer games, visiting teams will receive two tickets for each player.

For away games in all sports, each home team will determine the amount of tickets that Cuyahoga Falls will receive, Nichols wrote.

"Tickets will only be sold to family members or household members, no one else will be able to purchase a ticket this Fall," stated Cuyahoga Falls High School Athletic Director Kenny Johnson.

Johnson said football tickets will be handled through a pre-sale process and said family members of game participants have been notified about how they can acquire tickets. Tickets for football games will not be sold at the game. For the other games, Johnson said team rosters will be used to keep track of the number of spectators and who is attending.

For people who cannot attend in person, Johnson said games will be livestreamed on the district's YouTube channel.

Additional attendance rules for Cuyahoga Falls High School athletic events are:

1. All spectators must have a ticket to enter the stadium or gymnasium.

2. All tickets will be $7 for adults, and $4 for student and seniors.

3. Spectators must wear a mask at all times.

4. Spectators must sit with their immediate family/household members and stay 6 feet from others.

5. Gates will be closed 20 minutes after kickoff and will remain closed. There will be no re-entry allowed.

6. Concessions and concession stands will be limited with products.

Woodridge quarterback Andrew Mekeal hands off to Ben Lahoski during the Bulldogs’ home loss to Streetsboro in 2019. Attendance at Woodridge football games will be restricted to 500 people per game in 2020 due to COVID-19.

Woodridge's game attendance rules

Along with their counterparts in the Metro Athletic Conference (MAC), the Woodridge Local School District is implementing a two spectator per participant limit on attendance at its sporting events. Woodridge High School Athletic Director Nick Mayer said the district received a variance from the state allowing up to 500 spectators at the football stadium. For the home football games, Mayer said two tickets will be provided for each home team band member, and for each football player and cheerleader from both the home and visiting teams. The high school gymnasium will be restricted to 170 attendees, Mayer said.

Four spectators per participant will be allowed at home soccer games. The athletic department will communicate with the families of participants on how to acquire their tickets through an online process. Distribution of tickets is up to each family. Due to facility capacity limitations, there will be no general admission ticket sales to the community, according to the district's website. In addition, no tickets will be sold at the gate for MAC contests, either home or away. This policy may be different for non-conference contests on the road.

Cross country, golf and tennis will not have attendance restrictions because their events do not occur in confined spaces like a stadium or a gym, according to Mayer.

Contests against schools not in the MAC may have different procedures, which will be communicated on an individual event basis.

All individuals must have a ticket to enter. All tickets for MAC high school contests are $5 ($3 for freshmen only events). JV football is free.

All tickets for middle school events are $3.

Students, adults and senior citizens pay the same price for MAC events.

Everyone must have a ticket to enter both home and away games as a spectator.

The only passes that can be used to enter the game are MAC league passes.

Here are rules for attendance at Woodridge Middle School and High School sporting events:

1. Symptom screening prior to arrival on campus is required. Signage will be posted around the facilities for pre-screening upon arrival.

2. Face masks are required upon entry to the facilities.

3. 6 feet of social distancing is required.

4. People of the same household may sit together.

5. No loitering or congregating is allowed before or after events.

6. Athletic department officials ask that spectators leave the facility when their child’s contest is completed. If there is a seventh grade contest followed by an eighth grade contest, the parents of the seventh graders should exit the venue once the seventh grade game ends. 

7. Concessions sales will likely be limited to pre-packaged items only.

Community members unable to attend the game can watch live streams for certain events through the Woodridge Athletics YouTube channel.

Mayer said the channel will show livestreams of varsity football, boys and girls soccer, and high school and middle school volleyball.

Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at pkeren@recordpub.com, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.