CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - When the Carolina Panthers return to Bank of America for its next home game, there will be a small number of people in the stands.
In the season opener against the Las Vegas Raiders on Sept. 13, the seats were empty.
However, starting on Oct. 4 against Arizona Cardinals, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has allowed outdoor stadiums to have 7 percent of the stadium’s capacity to be filled.
Mecklenburg County Public Health Director Gibbie Harris remains in contact with the Panthers about their plans and the steps moving forward to allow fans back into the stadium.
Harris says there will be no tailgating allowed on Panthers' property due to gatherings and safety guidelines issued by the state.
“The individuals that are coming to the games are being asked not to tailgate,” Harris said. “We continue to have conversations with the Panthers as we move forward with this. We want to make sure, as much as possible, that this is a safe situation for our community.”
The Panthers have been worked on plans to sell tickets that abide by the social distancing standards.
All people in attendance must wear face coverings.
Harris said with the property safety measures and enforcement in place, the Panthers could successfully have the fans back in the seats.
“I believe, with the plans they have in place, we’ve been working with them for several months, that if they are able to enforce properly, there will be an opportunity for our community to safely go to the games,” Harris said.
While Bank of America Stadium, which has a capacity of more than 75,000, Harris is unsure about the Panthers' plan to sell less than the 7 percent of tickets allotted.
“They have a number, I’m not sure what it is, of people who will be able to access tickets. They have a whole process for that,” Harris said. “That will not exceed the 7 percent that the state has allowed.”
The Carolina Panthers are excited and ready to welcome some fans back at Bank of America stadium after Gov. Cooper said he’ll likely allow it to happen by next week.
The North Carolina governor announced last week that outdoor event venues could open at 7 percent capacity starting Friday, Oct. 2.
Venues like Bank of America stadium would be included in the event venues permitted to open at the reduced capacity.
A team spokesperson for the Panthers provided a statement in response to the announcement.
“We are excited to welcome some fans back to Bank of America Stadium beginning Oct. 4, and we thank the state of North Carolina, the city of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County for partnering with us in these efforts. We have worked for months to develop and implement a responsible and comprehensive plan for the return of fans and we are confident that it will ensure that the game day experience is enjoyable and as safe as possible,” the statement read.
The Panthers spokesperson said the team will continue to follow guidelines provided by the CDC, local and state government as well as the National Football League, and will be prepared to adjust policies as necessary.
The large outdoor arenas are safer than indoor event venues, Gov. Cooper said, and allow “plenty of room” for social distancing. Masks would still be expected to be worn.
The Panthers originally wanted to have a limited number of fans for their first home game this season Sept. 13, but the team was denied an exception for the game by the state.
The team later announced they would start the season at home without fans, but owner David Tepper made it crystal clear he would like to see fans back in the stands by October.
Tepper pointed out there would be a competitive disadvantage if the team wasn’t allowed to have some fans by October since the rest of the NFC South teams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans, were expecting to play their games in front of fans around their third game.
“It’s hard to not have fans in the building especially when all our division rivals have fans in their building,” Tepper said.