Mars Area navigates rules for sports fans

September 12, 2020 Cranberry Local Sports

In a virtual meeting Tuesday night, Mars Area School Board discussed revised fall sports spectator rules following recent legislative moves.

Last week, Gov. Tom Wolf lifted a COVID-19 ban on spectators for public school fall sports, limiting attendees to 25 at indoor events and 250 at outdoor events.

On Wednesday, the state Senate approved House Bill 2787, which would allow districts to make their own decisions regarding sports spectators.

The House approved the bill Sept. 2. Wolf now has 10 days to veto the bill before it becomes law. He is expected to veto.

While Wolf's current mandate means some teams won't be able to have spectators because they reach capacity with essential attendees, his Sept. 2 move allows for some visitors to watch some events in person.

Scott Heinauer, Mars athletic director, said the district's soccer teams are small enough that parents should be able to attend home and away games without a problem.

“We are able to get in two parents (for) every athlete,” Heinauer said. “We would have a couple tickets on sale after that.”

Tickets will be offered to Mars families first, according to Heinauer. At this time, tickets will be presold online to ensure events don't exceed their capacity. Any remaining tickets could be sold at the event.

Heinauer said other outdoor sports should provide a similar situation.

Varsity football is the exception, due to size. Essential attendees include the football team, officials, the marching band and cheerleaders, totaling about 180 people for Mars alone.

At this time, the district is reviewing options for the number of people who can attend varsity football games based on guidance provided by its WPIAL conference.

The district will share information about attendance moving forward. Heinauer hopes Wolf will revise capacity limitations over the next few weeks.

Heinauer said the cheer team and marching band won't travel to away football games at this time.

Megan Lenz, board member, clarified the district will make sure there aren't more than 250 people at an outdoor sports event.

“If there are 250 plus one, somebody will have to accommodate?” Lenz asked.

“Correct,” Heinauer said. “(And) at this point in time, there are no spectators in the gym whatsoever.”

The district is hoping to stream some sporting events via Hudl, a company that provides video review and performance analysis resources for student athletes across the United States.

Hudl is expected to provide the district with an additional video camera, free of charge.

“I spoke with Hudl at great length,” said Jeff Bitzer, district director of telecommunications and safety systems. “They are sending us another camera.”

Bitzer said the camera is free because the district has a Hudl subscription.

It's supposed to arrive soon and will allow the district to use YouTube to stream stadium events.

Bitzer said the district also has cameras inside, so gym sports like basketball and volleyball will be streamable.

“You'll just have to log into the YouTube channel and view the video,” Bitzer said.

Bitzer said a different solution will need to be found to provide video access for non-stadium outdoor sports such as cross country.

The board approved the athletic health and safety plan, procedures for marching band and recommendations for athletic spectators during the meeting.

Those documents should be posted online this week.

Samantha Beal

Samantha Beal