NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — It's been almost exactly one year since leaders of the SEC Men's Basketball Tournament made the difficult decision to cancel play because of COVID-19. Now a year later, those same leaders are taking extra precautions to ensure, history doesn't repeat itself.
"So I think if people are willing to try it out, I encourage them to come out. I think they’ll feel safe," said David Chadwell, Vice President of Event Operations for Bridgestone Arena.
For fans that go inside the arena, masks must be worn at all times, except for when eating and drinking at your seat. Neck gaiters are not allowed, it must be a facial covering. All seating clusters will be spread out for social distancing. Cash will not be accepted, only card-based transactions to prevent contact between a fan and concession worker. Bags are also not allowed, except for medical or parenting bags.
Also new this year, there will be an anonymous text line that fans can use to report someone else who isn't following proper protocols.
Exit from the arena after a game, will be directed by ushers per section, to prevent mass gatherings in the concourse. After the session is over, crews will work to disinfect the seating areas.
In other words, it's a full-court press to ensure the tournament actually makes it all the way through this year. "One of our teams will be cutting down the nets here in Nashville," said Byron Hatch, Assistant Commissioner of the Southeastern Conference.
To make sure it does, be prepared for lots of friendly reminders from the staff inside.
"Our biggest issue is just the knowledge -- if fans know they typically comply. It’s just that education process for ushers and just working with the fans," said Chadwell.
But most SEC basketball fans won't make it inside. Only 20% of seats are available and those have mostly been allocated to university personnel and players' families. So if you get a ticket, you'll have to pay up.
"C'mon man, this is the March Madness, this is what I live for," said Mark Therrien, a die-hard Florida Gators fan. "So I paid about 100 dollars for two tickets when I only needed one."
For the rest of the faithful on the outside looking in, it means they'll probably be listening to a little music in the honky-tonks, with the game on the TV. "I mean everywhere has live music, it’s awesome," said Rudy Wolf.
What is the rebound?
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