NFL announces 22,000 fans will attend Super Bowl, including 7,500 vaccinated health care workers

Raymond James Stadium
Posted at 9:27 AM, Jan 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-22 23:21:58-05

The NFL will limit capacity at Super Bowl LV to 22,000, including 7,500 health care workers who have received the COVID-19 vaccine.

The 22,000 fans will likely mark the lowest attendance in Super Bowl history in a season that saw many stadiums stay empty for the entire season.

The 22,000 fans represent 30% of the maximum capacity at the 75,000-seat Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, where the game will be played on Feb. 7.

The 22,000 fans will represent a slight increase in capacity for the stadium in 2020. During the regular season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers averaged about 14,000 fans for home games, the third-highest average in the league, according to ESPN.

According to a press release, the majority of the health care workers selected to attend the Super Bowl work in the "Tampa and central Florida area." All 32 NFL teams will also have a chance to select health care workers from their community to attend the game.

In a video shared by the NFL on Friday, Commissioner Roger Goodell surprised a group of health care workers from Sarasota Memorial Hospital during a Zoom call and announced that all would be attending the Super Bowl.

The teams competing in the Super Bowl will be determined on Sunday. The Kansas Chiefs or the Buffalo Bills will face off against either the Green Bay Packers or the hometown Buccaneers.

The NFL also said plans enhance protocols already implemented by teams. They include mandatory masks, social distancing, podded seating, touchless in-stadium experiences and controlled entry and exit.

"I think it's very prudent, I think it's well thought out," said Jay Wolfson, Ph.D., the senior associate dean for the Morsani College of Medicine at USF. "The Super Bowl is coming here it’s going to happen and they’ve given an awful lot of thought given the experience that they, Disney and other sites have had to protect all those who are attending."

Wolfson said there are concerns about outside the stadium, though, with people traveling through the city and potentially gathering.

"The big challenge for all of us is what happens in the bars, the restaurants, in people’s homes, parties on the beach because more than 22,000 people will be coming here, it’s very likely it’s gonna be a festive event," said Wolfson. "So it’s up to each of them and all of them to continue to realize we’re in the middle of a pandemic and we can’t afford to create another spark that will turn into a forest fire."

That means practicing hand hygiene, social distancing and wearing a mask.

"The good news is I know Tampa and Hillsborough County are really looking forward to people coming and celebrating the Super Bowl and we’re looking forward to having people get out and be careful but still have a good time and go to our businesses," said Commissioner Kimberly Overman, the vice-chair of the Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners.

Both Tampa and Hillsborough County have mask orders in place. The county recently tweaked its order to strongly encourage businesses to include mask-wearing in outdoor areas when someone is not eating or drinking or can't distance.

"The health and safety of our community is paramount and the NFL and the host committee have been fantastic community partners. As always, we recommend everyone follow CDC guidelines; where a mask and stay socially distant," a city spokesman said.