Gainesville City Commissioner David Arreola published a letter Monday afternoon asking the UF Board of Trustees not to allow fans at home games this season.
“We must have a shared understanding of how a home game can turn into a COVID-19 super-spreader event within the Gainesville community and other communities where spectators travel from, no matter what protections are taken,” Arreola wrote.
In his letter, he cited a source of concern about how home games will exacerbate the effects of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ decision to move forward with Phase 3 reopening this week. The Reopening Order strips Alachua County of its ability to enforce mandatory face coverings, limited capacity and social distancing at restaurants and bars, Arreola said. Since tailgating is prohibited this season, Arreola worries that fans with and without tickets will turn to bars and restaurants instead, something he notes as a regular occurrence anyway. This could create an environment primed for spreading the virus.
When asked for comment, Arreola said his argument was based in reason, seeing as the numbers he used were the same numbers being used throughout the community. He also noted that this is a decision that would have to come from the Board of Trustees, which is why he wrote them.
In terms of social distancing at games, The Alligator previously reported that University Police encourages fans to self-report and enforce the COVID-19 guidelines put in place by the university and University Athletic Department (UAA).
UF spokesperson Steve Orlando and UAA spokesperson Steve McClain did not respond for comment in time for publication.
This comes just two days after coach Dan Mullen urged fans to purchase tickets for this weekend’s home game against South Carolina.
“So if you’re a Gator fan and you want to feel normal and feel normal for Gator fans in the Swamp on a Saturday afternoon, there are some tickets still available,” Mullen said at post-game media Saturday. “We’re going to do social distancing. Great protocol. Come feel normal for the first time in six months and come see the Gators play in the Swamp next Saturday afternoon.”
Additionally, students were notified today if they’d won tickets for Saturday’s game through the new lottery system. While UAA originally noted that students could only win the lottery once this season, today’s email notification said the opposite.
“Please note, all students will now be eligible to be selected again as a winner of lottery for future home games,” the email reads in bold.
The Gators are set to kick off at noon Saturday for their home opener against the Gamecocks.
An empty Ben Hill Griffin Stadium under an overcast sky. City Commissioner David Arreola wrote the UF Board of Trustees Monday, urging them to not allow fans at this year's home football games.
Payton is a sophomore journalism major from Jacksonville, Florida. She is The Alligator's Spring 2021 digital managing editor. Her previous roles include softball beat writer, football beat writer and online sports editor. Payton's home in Jackson