The Super Bowl is the most watched event every year in the United States, but the 2021 matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers won’t have the game’s typical sold-out crowd. Instead, Super Bowl LV will happen with limited attendance, as 25,000 spectators will be allowed into Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. Another 30,000 seats will be filled by cardboard cutouts.
Among the 25,000 in attendance will be 7,500 vaccinated health care workers who were invited to the game as guests of the NFL.
“These dedicated health care workers continue to put their own lives at risk to serve others, and we owe them our ongoing gratitude,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a press release. “We hope in a small way that this initiative will inspire our country and recognize these true American heroes. This is also an opportunity to promote the importance of vaccination and appropriate health practices, including wearing masks in public settings.”
All 25,000 in attendance — including those who have been vaccinated — will be provided with free PPE (personal protective equipment) and will be required to wear a mask while in the stadium.
The limited attendance will be a Super Bowl record, as the previous record for low attendance was in the first ever Super Bowl in 1967 when 61,946 watched the Green Bay Packers beat the Chiefs.
Experts Are Still Raising Concerns About Super Bowl Attendance
The NFL has touted its stringent safety protocols as reason to be optimistic that Super Bowl LV won’t have any negative impacts on those in attendance. But some experts still aren’t convinced that 25,000 people in the same place is a good idea.
“My biggest concern for when Covid-19 might spread at the stadium is not necessarily when people are sitting in their seats,” Stephen Kissler, an epidemiologist at Harvard University, told CNBC. “It’s actually when they are mixing in other parts of the stadium.”
The NFL says it has a plan for those moments too, though. The NFL’s head of live event production Jonathan Barker told CNBC that customized entry points into the stadium will avoid crowded lines near the entrances, and concourses will flow in two different directions to free up room.
Eight NFL teams averaged over 12,000 fans per home game in 2020, and the Dallas Cowboys led the way with an average of 28,187 fans. Despite over a million total fans attending a combined 116 regular season games in 2020, Barker told CNBC the league has “not traced any outbreak or cluster of cases” to fans in attendance at an NFL game.
Cardboard Cutouts Cost $100 Each
It’s too late now to get your face in Raymond James Stadium, but fans were briefly given the opportunity to be one of the 30,000 filling the seats at Super Bowl LV.
For $100, fans could upload a photo of themselves into an NFL website and get a cardboard cutout in the stands. According to Bay News 9, proceeds from the cardboard cutout program were donated to Feeding Tampa Bay, a charity that provides food to food insecure families in West Central Florida.