There have been plenty of articles here on Kentucky Sports Radio about what happened in yesterday’s 42-41 loss to Ole Miss. I’m not here to dive into all my thoughts on the brutal, brutal loss. Instead, I’m going to talk about my experience getting to be a fan at Kroger Field once again. Along the way, I’ll be touching on the coronavirus protocols, social distancing guidelines, and a fun little story of a headstrong couple getting removed from the stadium.
Roughly two hours before kickoff, starting around 2:00, I took a full lap around Kroger Field to check out the entrances to see if people were congregating in any of the parking lots, and hopefully catch some of the players and coaches entering the stadium.
About as soon as I got up to the stadium I saw the Ole Miss team getting off their bus and Lane Kiffin leading them inside. There was a decent contingent of their fans hanging out by the gate to welcome the team.
From there, I made my way around to the UK practice facility and there were literally just two people–in addition to my dad and I–hanging around watching some of the players and coaches enter Kroger Field. Even outside of the stadium, almost everyone I saw was complying with the mask mandate and people seemed to keep social distancing in mind.
Each entrance gate was open and available for use with stickers placed on the ground to remind people to keep a safe distance from those in front or behind them in line. In the hour and fifteen minutes or so I spent outside the stadium I really didn’t notice a line at all. With all of the gates being open, coupled with the limited fans, it didn’t seem like it was ever that busy entering the stadium (it obviously could have gotten busier closer to kickoff once I was inside).
Upon entering I was simply asked if I had experienced any coronavirus symptoms and then was allowed to enter after answering no. There was hand sanitizer available at each entrance and throughout the stadium, too. Temperature checks were NOT administered.
Inside the stadium, there were arrows on the ramps leading up to your seats to keep the “traffic flow” headed in the same direction. Out in the concourse though I felt like UK could have done a little more. There was no attempt to control people’s movement about the concourse and it certainly got pretty crowded in areas.
At the concession stands it was especially evident. There were no stickers on the ground which led to people standing “too close” to one another in line. At halftime, I ran down to grab a snack and a drink and the lines were very long and distancing wasn’t really a thing. In my opinion, UK could stand to open more concession stands moving forward to try and cut down on line-length and help maintain social distancing. It seemed almost like a normal game down in the concourse at halftime.
Probably most importantly though, I felt like the seating was handled very well. There was nobody sitting directly in front of us or behind us for two rows. The closest person was in the row in front of me and probably four seats over to my left. Nobody else was even close. The crowd may have seemed more packed on television (something I have thought as well while watching games) but having been there I thought the spacing of people was handled as well as possible.
Overall, in terms of safety protocols, I would probably give Kentucky a “B+” grade. They essentially did what could be expected in terms of entering the stadium (masks were required, plenty of signage about symptoms, etc). Inside the stadium, some attempts were certainly made (and the social distancing of the seating was GREAT in my opinion) but the crowds in the concourse and in concession lines left a little to be desired. Improvements could be made for next weekend.
I was honestly pleasantly surprised by the compliance to the mask mandate. A few neck gaiters definitely snuck their way in as opposed to the “mask with ear loops” directive, but for the most part, people were wearing them while sitting in their seats. However, there was one couple about five rows in front of me that simply refused.
Each section had at least one usher standing around the entrance holding a sign that read “PLEASE WEAR YOUR MASK.” Probably in the middle of the first quarter, an usher pointed these two (both in their early 60’s probably) out and asked them to put on their masks. The couple essentially ignored the usher and eventually, the usher just returned to his post.
Probably 10-15 minutes later a police officer came right up to their seats and stood next to the couple and proceeded to have a five-minute conversation with them. The man eventually pulled out his mask and put it on (only to quickly move it over his chin) but the woman never budged and was seemingly successful in talking down the cop. I’m not sure exactly what was said but I was mind blown that the cop left without her putting a mask on.
But after another 10-15 minutes, an event staff worker showed up and asked the couple to put their masks on. This time, the worker was persistent and, with two cops watching from the ramp, dismissed the couple from the stadium. The woman even showed that she had a mask (presumably so she could get in the stadium) but they clearly refused to put them on and were eventually removed.
This situation was ultimately handled, but after a lengthy delay. I’m glad that they were eventually removed, however, there was way too much conversation and it took three different people to resolve the situation over the course of maybe 45 minutes. It seems like a pretty black-and-white rule: If you won’t wear your mask, you can’t be in the stadium.
As I said, I was actually very impressed with overall compliance when it came to masks, but in the weeks to come at Kroger Field, the stadium staff will need to be much more direct in terms of handling those who choose to not abide by the rules.
Last Saturday I got reservations at KSBar to watch the Auburn game. It was a great time and a great atmosphere as I enjoyed getting to watch the game amongst a lot of Kentucky fans. However, there is nothing quite like being in the stadium.
As soon as tickets were available for yesterday’s game against Ole Miss I knew I wanted to go in order to see how fun a college football game would be with just 20% capacity allowed. I admittedly went into it expecting that it wouldn’t be that great of an atmosphere and that I would prefer just watching the rest of the games this season at KSBar.
After attending the game I would say that it was more fun than I expected (just getting to watch in person is always more enjoyable) but I still won’t care to get tickets to more games this season. I already have tickets for the season finale against South Carolina, but the next three home games I will not be attending.
According to some callers on the postgame show last night, there was in fact crowd noise piped into the stadium but I honestly did not notice it ever. There was still music playing, pump-up videos, etc., but I expected to have a constant loop of clapping and yelling fans to make up for the lack of attendance. If the crowd noise was there, it certainly wasn’t very loud.
I also felt like the fans that were in attendance were pretty laid back. They stayed seated for most of the game and simply weren’t all that into the game even when things were going well. There obviously were portions of the crowd that were, but as a whole, from what I could see I didn’t think the fans were as enthusiastic as they typically are during a “normal” season.
At the end of the day, it was super fun getting to be at a live sporting event once again. Just a couple of months ago I wasn’t sure we would even get a Kentucky Football season, so being able to be in attendance for yesterday’s game was awesome. However, the overall atmosphere was probably more fun at KSBar than it was inside Kroger Field. That is obviously a subjective opinion so if you had a different experience or simply disagree I’d love to hear your thoughts! Tweet me @BRamseyKSR.