INDIANAPOLIS (WXIN) — A limited number of fans will be able to attend this year’s March Madness games.
The NCAA announced Friday that venues would allow up to 25% capacity with physical distancing for the tournament. The organization made the decision in conjunction with state and local health departments.
The entirety of the annual men’s basketball tournament will be played in Indiana, with sites including Lucas Oil Stadium, Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Hinkle Fieldhouse and Indiana Farmers Coliseum in Indianapolis along with Mackey Arena in West Lafayette and Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall in Bloomington.
Capacity will vary by venue. For example, IU officials said Assembly Hall will seat 500 fans for its first-round games. The venue has a capacity of 17,000:
After conversations between the NCAA and the Indiana University Medical Response Team, Indiana University plans to welcome up to 500 spectators for the 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship games played at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall March 18-20.
Indiana University’s plan, based on recommendations from the Medical Response Team, is consistent with the attendance policy at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall during the 2020-2021 basketball season permitting immediate family members of participating players and staff members to attend the games. A limited number of seats will also be available for vaccinated medical personnel and first responders from Monroe County.
Event capacity includes all participants, essential staff and family members of each participating team’s student-athletes and coaches and a reduced number of fans. All attendees must wear masks and stay physically distant during the event. In addition, the NCAA said thorough cleaning and disinfecting will be a “priority” at all venues.
“We continue to use the knowledge we have gained over the season on how to conduct games in a safe environment,” said NCAA President Mark Emmert. “I want to thank our host universities and conferences, the Indiana State Health Department, and the leaders in the Marion, Monroe and Tippecanoe county health departments as they help make that possible.”
The NCAA has formalized COVID-19 health and safety protocols for the tournament. They include testing, face coverings, physical distancing and contact tracing requirements before teams arrive and throughout their stay in the tournament.
Hosts Ball State, Butler, the Horizon League, Indiana, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and Purdue are lending their facilities and staffs to assist with tournament operations. The NCAA will use the Indiana Convention Center as a practice facility, with multiple courts set up inside the venue.
Dr. Virginia Caine, director and chief medical officer of the Marion County Public Health Department, issued the following statement in response to the NCAA’s announcement:
The Marion County Public Health Department agrees with the decision made by the NCAA on the suggested limitation of spectators, up to 25% capacity at host venues with the understanding that there will be strict requirements for masks and social distancing, for the 2021 Division I Men’s Basketball Championship as outlined in today’s announcement.
Marion County has followed state and national trends in seeing significant decreases in the COVID-19 positivity rate in recent weeks. While this is good news, we must all continue to be vigilant. By requiring the wearing of masks, physical distancing, and with comprehensive COVID-19 testing, monitoring and other health safety protocols in place, the NCAA believes they can provide a safe environment for athletes and team staff.
We will continue to monitor COVID-19 data, and – as a group – make any adjustments to protocols as necessary leading up to tip-off. Protecting the health of everyone involved is our top priority.
Saying he’s “excited to safely welcome fans,” Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett issued this statement on Twitter: “Today’s welcome announcement is a testament to months of planning by the NCAA and local public health and civic partners.”