Senators introduce bill to increase attendance limits at outdoor high school sporting events

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(AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)

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RALEIGH, N.C. – Sens. Todd Johnson (R-Union), Vickie Sawyer (R-Iredell), and Danny Britt (R-Robeson) on Thursday introduced Senate Bill 116 to change the 100-person capacity limit at outdoor high school sporting venues.

Under Gov. Roy Cooper’s current executive orders, no more than 100 fans may watch high school athletes compete at large outdoor venues like football fields. As a result of the restriction, close family of high school athletes can’t watch the students compete.

Outdoor facilities like football fields and stands are often large enough to accommodate many more people and still allow for ample social distancing. For example, Sen. Johnson pointed to Cuthbertson High School in Union County. Its football stands can hold 2,976 people, yet Gov. Cooper’s restriction only allows for 100 people, or 3% capacity.

The bill would change the 100-person limit to 40 percent of an outdoor facility’s capacity.

A petition has been circulating around the state asking for the same change.

“Many parents have reached out to my office with the legitimate complaint that they can’t watch their children compete in outdoor sports even though many facilities can hold much more than 100 people and still abide by social distancing guidelines,” Johnson said. “The current 100-person limit is unreasonable and ignores the reality that many outdoor high school sports facilities are very large and can accommodate many more socially distanced fans.”

Legislators also sent Gov. Cooper a letter asking that he amend his executive order to accomplish the same goal as Senate Bill 116. Amending the executive order would be a much quicker way to resolve the problem, but legislators will advance their bill if necessary.

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