Pitt to host fall sports on campus without attendance restrictions


TPN File Photo

Pitt football hosted fans at Heinz Field for the first time in almost a year during its Oct. 24, 2020 game against Notre Dame.

By Stephen Thompson, Senior Staff Writer

Pitt athletics is hoping to take a big step back towards pre-pandemic operations this fall. According to a report from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Wednesday afternoon, Pitt plans on open on-campus venues to full capacity for fall sports this year, with some regulations for spectators still in place.

Athletic department spokesperson E.J. Borghetti told the Post-Gazette that all spectators — regardless of vaccination status — will be required to wear masks indoors. He added that Pitt recommends unvaccinated individuals or those living with someone who is immunocompromised should wear masks when outdoors and maintain physical distance.

These rules will apply to all three outdoor venues on campus — Ambrose Urbanic Field, the Petersen Events Center and Fitzgerald Field House. Urbanic Field, home of both the men’s and women’s soccer programs, is the only outdoor venue scheduled to host games at this time.

Pitt volleyball will pioneer these new regulations. After playing a fall and spring season in front of empty stands, the Panthers will open up the Field House to the public for an intrasquad scrimmage at 1 p.m. on Saturday. All spectators are required to wear masks with no exceptions.

Athletic director Heather Lyke said in May that she hopes and expects to fully open Heinz Field for the Sept. 4 opener vs. UMass.

“That’s our expectation, and that’s our hope,” Lyke said. But the delta variant of COVID-19 could derail those hopes.

But Pitt does not completely control how Heinz Field — the home of Panthers football, which it shares with the Pittsburgh Steelers — will handle crowd size since it is an off-campus site. By the final game of last football season — a 47-14 win over Virginia Tech on Nov. 21 — Heinz Field capped attendance at 4,800. Spectators were required to wear masks when not eating and drinking, vendors sold alcohol only if patrons bought food as well and tickets were sold in four-seat “pods.” Heinz Field management has yet to announce what, if any, changes will be made to their attendance and COVID-19 policies.

“The University of Pittsburgh will work in conjunction with Heinz Field regarding fan and staff safety protocols during football games this fall,” Borghetti said. “As always, protocols will be continuously evaluated as circumstances evolve.”