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NFL’s Miami Dolphins set 13,000 capacity for 2020 home opener

Socially distanced seating and staggered entry times among safety protocols.

25 August 2020 Sam Carp

Getty Images

  • Dolphins to allow 20% of Hard Rock Stadium’s 65,326 capacity
  • Fans must wear face masks inside venue; touchless entry and cashless payments also in place
  • At least 15 NFL teams will not allow spectators from start of season

The National Football League’s (NFL) Miami Dolphins have announced that a maximum of 13,000 fans will be allowed to attend their first home game of the 2020 regular season against the Buffalo Bills.

The crowd size for the 20th September fixture will be approximately 20 per cent of Hard Rock Stadium’s 65,326 capacity, with the limitation in place as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. 

The Dolphins have introduced a number of protocols to ensure a safe environment for fans, including socially distanced seating clusters, upgraded air conditioning filters and staggered entry times, which will be listed on mobile tickets.

There will be touchless security screening and more entry and exit points to avoid bottlenecks, as well as a cashless experience for food service, parking and retail. All fans and stadium employees will be required to wear a mask when they are not eating or drinking.

In addition, new bathroom fixtures, toilets, soap and paper towel dispensers have been fitted with automatic sensors so that they require no contact. 

The club’s decision to allow fans from the start of the season comes after Hard Rock Stadium became the first NFL venue to receive GBAC Star accreditation from the Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC), which determined that the facility is undertaking thorough cleaning, disinfection and infection prevention strategies.

Tom Garfinkel, the Miami Dolphins vice chairman and chief executive, said: “When we started the process back in March of exploring what a socially-distanced stadium could look like, we made the health and safety of everyone the first priority; knowing that if we felt that we couldn't make it safe, we simply wouldn't have fans.

“We're happy that our elected officials recognise the attention to detail and diligence that we've put into creating a safe environment and that they made the decision to move forward with a 13,000-capacity stadium at this time.”

The Dolphins said that season ticket holders will be given first priority to attend games based on their tenure. All season ticket members also have the option to roll their payments for this year over to 2021, while the franchise is encouraging those considered to be in the at-risk category not to attend games.

The Florida franchise is one of a handful of NFL teams that has committed to having fans from the start of the 2020 season. At least 15 of the league’s 32 clubs have ruled out spectators for the time being, while several others are yet to announce their plans.

The Dolphins’ decision comes just days after Florida’s coronavirus death toll passed 10,000, representing the fifth highest among US states. 

There are obvious financial motivations for NFL teams to have at least some fans attend their games this season. A study published by Forbes in May found that the league could lose a combined US$5.5 billion in stadium revenue if the 2020 campaign were played behind closed doors.

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