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Garry Berry Stadium in Colorado Springs to host twice as many teams this season due to pandemic

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- The COVID-19 pandemic caused a hectic start to Thursday's opening night of the high school football season in Colorado Springs.

District 11's Mitchell High School and District 20's Discovery Canyon High School kicked off at 6 p.m. at D-11's Garry Berry Stadium.

However, because D-20 began replacing the turf on its field when officials thought the season would be canceled, the project isn't finished, so both districts will play their games at Garry Berry Stadium.

"We used to schedule games one right after the other," said Chris Noll, athletic director for D-19. "But now, we need from 60 to 90 minutes between games for cleaning and to safely get spectators out of the stadium before allowing people back in. It's more expensive to prepare for games now."

There will be one varsity game on Thursdays, one on Fridays and two on Saturdays -- along with a freshman game on Saturday mornings.

The double workload won't last long, however, as the seven varsity teams and seven freshman teams in both districts will play only three games this season.

Social distancing will be required for spectators, staff, teams and referees.

The stadium has a seating capacity of 5,000, but only a tenth of that will be allowed to attend games. The home side will be limited to 320, with 160 on each side of a 50-foot-wide roped-off gap in the middle. The visitor side will limit seating to 250.

Each school will decide how many tickets a player can provide for families and friends, but the number likely will be no more than two per player in most cases.

Tickets will be sold at the stadium as usual, and there will be limited points of entry and exit.

The seats are marked with stickers to help promote social distancing.

To help teams observe social distancing, officials have allowed players and coaches to spread out along longer stretches of the sideline.

Teams will be allowed on the field one at a time, with one team warming up on the main field and the other team warming up on an adjacent practice field.

Because marching band season is canceled for schools, bands will not march on the field and will remain in one location, probably behind the end zones.

Teams gathered outside the stadium before the game Thursday because locker rooms won't be used. There appeared to be between 200 and 300 people in the stands for the game.

Homeowners across the street from the stadium who spoke with KRDO NewsChannel 13 generally support the continuation of high school football during the pandemic, although some questioned whether conditions can be kept safe during games.

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Scott Harrison

Scott is a reporter for KRDO. Learn more about Scott here.

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