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State Football Playoffs proceed with precautions

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa (KWWL) -- The Iowa High School Athletic Association will conduct this week’s football semifinals and next week’s finals at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls as planned using precautions established in consultation with the University of Northern Iowa and Black Hawk County Health Department.

A proclamation Tuesday from Governor Kim Reynolds permitted two spectators per participant to attend indoor youth and high school sporting events due to the continued spread of COVID-19. Given the size of the UNI-Dome and previously planned precautions, the governor considers the state football semifinals and finals equivalent to an outdoor sporting gathering rather than an indoor event.

“We appreciate the consideration of Governor Reynolds in allowing the University of Northern Iowa and Black Hawk County to develop plans that keep fans socially distant at the UNI-Dome,” IHSAA executive director Tom Keating said. “We believe that with the seating plan and our mask mandates in place, we can conduct the state semifinals and finals games safely.”

Tuesday’s proclamation requires all non-athletes wear masks and that groups of attendees have at least six feet of social distancing from other groups at outdoor sporting events. When considered an outdoor gathering, the 12 semifinals (Nov. 12-14) and six finals (Nov. 19-20) are not subject to the proclamation’s indoor spectator limitations and will follow the precautions already in place for the event.

Through reserved seating at the UNI-Dome, spectators will be seated in group pods and will be at least six feet away from other groups. Tickets can be purchased in groups up to six and prohibited seats will be marked. Ticket sales will be capped at 2,400 spectators per game or around 15 percent of the UNI-Dome capacity.

Spectators, officials, staff, sideline personnel, cheerleaders, media members, and all other non-athletes will be required to wear masks while in the UNI-Dome. The ventilation system will also run at 100 percent capacity to ensure air is refreshed.

"We’re taking these additional steps today to further protect our campus and community," President Mark A. Nook said. "As the longstanding host site for the state football championships, we also recognize our responsibility for the health and safety of our campus and the general public."

UNI has hosted the state finals since 1976 and semifinals since 1998.

Tickets went on sale Saturday exclusively to participating schools. Walk-up tickets will no longer be available for any of the semifinals or finals. Tickets are $12.50 each and are good for one game as the UNI-Dome will be cleared and cleaned extensively between contests. Parking is free at designated lots around the UNI-Dome.

Around 3,000 people total are expected to attend the three playoff games on Thursday. More than 5,000 people are anticipated on Friday and more than 6,000 on Saturday.

In addition to the mitigation measures in place, athletes and spectators traveling for the playoffs are advised that both Cedar Falls and Waterloo have mask mandates in effect, which the university says they support.

Fans outside the UNI-Dome can watch the semifinals and finals through the Iowa High School Sports Network. Each game is available through a free livestream, the free IHSSN app, and various cable and broadcast television networks.

"We’re happy to partner with UNI and appreciate the steps they’re taking in response to rising coronavirus case numbers here and across the state," Black Hawk County Health Department Director Nafissa Cisse Egbuonye said. "We urge everyone traveling here for the playoffs to wear masks and remain socially distanced."

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Rick Coleman

Sports Director

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