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Miami Dolphins to allow up to 13,000 fans at home opener

Reactions to the decision have been split.
Credit: AP
A view of Hard Rock Stadium before an NCAA football game between Florida Atlantic and Miami, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — The Miami Dolphins will allow up to 13,000 socially distancing fans to attend their home opener against Buffalo on Sept. 20 at Hard Rock Stadium.

The decision divided political leaders and upset the Bills’ coach. The same plan will be followed for the University of Miami’s home opener against UAB at the Dolphins’ stadium on Sept. 10.

Crowd size will be about 20 percent of the stadium’s 65,326-seat capacity. Groups of spectators will be spaced 6 feet apart.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez attended a news conference Monday to discuss the decision, which they approved. 

"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," Miami Dolphins Vice Chairman and CEO Tom Garfinkel wrote in a statement. "We're happy that our elected officials recognize 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."

Fans will be required to wear masks. Here's a list of safety-oriented changes, as laid out by the Dolphins.

  • GBAC Star certification
  • Socially distanced seating clusters
  • All fans and stadium employees will be required to wear a mask when not actively eating or drinking
  • Upgrading Air Conditioning filters from Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) 10 to MERV 14 (Hospital Grade)
  • Mobile touchless entry with more points of entries and exits to help avoid bottlenecks at ingress/egress
  • Staggered gate entry with entry times listed on game tickets
  • Cashless experience for food service, parking and retail
  • New walk through metal detectors with touchless security screening to allow fans to keep all items in their pockets for faster entry
  • 1 metal detector for every 104 fans vs 1 metal detector for every 394 fans in 2019
  • Changing from manual to contactless toilets and faucets
  • No smoking inside the stadium or helixes
  • No tailgating for 2020 season with parking lots open two hours before kickoff instead of four hours

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