Game on: Eight-man finals move forward — with restrictions

Chad Frey
The Kansas Eight Player Football Championships will be hosted at Fischer Field for the 15th time. Games are set for Nov. 28.

The Kansas Eight Player Football Championships Nov. 28 are still on, with modifications.

“We are taking down the limit of people allowed in,” said Brian Bascue, superintendent of the Newton Recreation Commission.

This is the 15th time the NRC has served as host of the games at Athletic Park.

“We are going to set the capacity at 500 per game, that’s 250 tickets per team. We are going to require people to wear masks into the stadium,” Bascue said. “... Our concern is a lot of these teams are coming from rural areas, where social distancing and masks are not the practice.”

That means there will only be 500 seats available for each game in a stadium rated for 3,300 people. Traditionally the eight-man championships have drawn crowds of 2,800 per day, or 1,400 per game.

For the first time, the NRC will hire security for the games to enforce COVID-19 protocols.

It is likely that all tickets for the games will be sold in advance, and for those who forget to bring a mask, the recreation commission will sell masks at the stadium.

“Everything I am sending out to these teams, we are telling them to make sure everyone is aware of this,” Bascue said.

The Harvey County Commission/Board of Health moved back to Phase 3 of its COVID-19 reopening plan — limiting crowds to 45 people or fewer. After consulting with the Harvey County Health Department, Bascue said it is likely that the county will change the crowd size limit before the games occur.

There will be no tailgating allowed at the games. Inside the stadium, every other seat will be blocked off to help with social distancing.

The press box will be off limits to media and reserved for coaches only.

“After the first game we have to clear the stadium and disinfect the entire stadium and locker rooms before the the second game,” Bascue said.

No gatherings on the field will be allowed.

“This is a lot different than what we have done in the past. I know that people have really enjoyed coming here in the past,” Bascue said. “... If they want to gather out in the park to take pictures or do anything, they can do that.”

The rec commission is setting up an online ticketing process, with limits on the number of tickets one person can buy.

“We are being told they will sell out fast,” Bascue said.

Initial ticket offers will be limited, by usage of an online code, to team allotments.

“What I am hearing is that it is unlikely that we will be selling any tickets here,” said Willis Heck, member of the Newton Recreation Commission board.

There are two football games to by played at Athletic Park that day, the state championship for Division I and Division II. Gates open at 9 a.m. for Division II and after stadium sterilization for Division I.

Teams set to play Nov. 28 include Little River (10-2) taking on Leoti-Wichita County (12-0) in Division I and Hanover (10-0) taking on St. Francis (11-0) in Division II.

In other business, the commission:

• Reviewed agreements with the Public Building Commission and progress on a project to construct a new municipal pool. The pool is likely be completed in mid to late June of 2021.

• Received a COVID-19 update. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced changes for the Newton Recreation Commission. The wellness center has remained open, with strict rules on social distancing and how many people can be in the center at one time. The Rec Commission has also placed youth basketball leagues on hold, and it is unclear when those leagues may play. At this time only 25 people can be on a basketball court at one time in the facility gymnasium.