NFL hoping for full stadium at Super Bowl, but prepared for no fans

by Michael David Smith

Most NFL stadiums have been empty this season, and those with fans at all are operating at significantly reduced capacities. The NFL isn’t sure whether that will still be the case on Super Bowl Sunday.

NFL event planners toured Raymond James Stadium this morning as part of the preparations for the Super Bowl and told Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times they’re hoping for a sellout crowd but also preparing for possibilities including a Super Bowl in an empty stadium.

“Well, we certainly have to prepare for that,” said Jonathan Barker, head of live events and production for the NFL. “Our hope is going to be to fill this stadium with fans. That’s our hope. But the smart thing to do is to prepare just in case. If we find ourselves on February 7 where we’re in different scenario, we’re going to just make sure we’re ready for that.”

The Buccaneers have decided to keep the stadium empty for their first two home games but plan to sell some tickets after that. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis questioned the Bucs’ decision and said Florida is ready for fans in the stands now, as the Miami Dolphins and Jacksonville Jaguars both have, so it seems unlikely that the state would object to fans at the Super Bowl.

But the reality is no one can say today what to expect in four months. If the COVID-19 situation looks good, it might be safe to have 65,000 fans at the Super Bowl. But it’s also possible that the only safe number of fans will be zero.