Heather Lyke said Pitt has asked for there to be as many as 18,000 fans at Pitt’s home games moving forward, and that the school is ready to proceed with that plan as soon as this Saturday if they can get clearance from Governor Tom Wolf and the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
“We have submitted a plan for between 15 and 20% capacity, which equates to between 13 to 15 thousand, maybe 18 thousand fans, and full suite capacity,” Lyke said on Tuesday during an interview with 93.7 The Fan.
“We’ve obviously had three home games very successfully and had no issues with regards to the virus. I just think it’s an incredibly safe environment. You’re outside. We obviously can be socially distanced with limited capacity. We certainly hope that we have the opportunity to give the parents and other fans the privilege and the opportunity to be a part of a gameday in a reduced capacity, for sure, but in a very safe environment.”
Lyke echoed the concerns brought up by Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi on Monday with regards to the parents of the team’s players and other groups that she feels should be prioritized for entering Heinz Field.
“Being a parent myself, you can’t recapture these moments. I really feel for the parents and the families,” she said. “I think it’s the right thing to do. People have a choice as to whether or not they want to be in any environment, right? I would prefer to give them that choice.
“There’s no question the band and the spirit squad — the cheerleaders and the dance team — are part of our student population and our students are our priority. So is the Panther Pitt, the student section. They would absolutely have priority to be there. We want them to be part of the game day pageantry. They are part of what make up college sports, that make it unique.”
Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey also threw his support behind the idea of fans in the stands for Pitt and the Temple Owls games, as well as Penn State when the Nittany Lions being play in a month’s time.
“There’s no reason why Pennsylvanians cannot responsibly enjoy outdoor sports for the 2020-2021 season,” Toomey wrote on Twitter on Tuesday. “Programs like Temple, Penn State and Pitt are capable of developing plans that keep their fans safe.”
There’s no reason why Pennsylvanians cannot responsibly enjoy outdoor sports for the 2020-2021 season. Programs like @Temple_FB, @PennStateFball, and @Pitt_FB are capable of developing plans that keep their fans safe.
— Senator Pat Toomey (@SenToomey) September 29, 2020
Lyke said that after the band, cheer squads and students, suite-holders would be prioritized, as well as donors, based on giving history. She said masks and social distancing would be required and that tailgating would not be permitted.
“You’ve seen a lot of other stadiums in the country and a lot of other schools in the country do this successfully and very well,” she said. “People who don’t want to be in that environment absolutely have the choice to not to come. It’s been controlled. We would not allow tailgating. We would be very restrictive on that. That is a concern, I think, to all of us. When you’re eating and drinking, obviously, it’s easier to spread the virus, so we would highly discourage tailgating. But we want people to come to the games and we will be prepared for Notre Dame.”