The Spring 2021 athletic season at Concordia University Chicago looks significantly different than in years past. The COVID-19 pandemic has not only pushed back the start of the spring season but also forced fall sports to compete in the spring. With all teams currently practicing for a crazy semester, many are left wondering if fans will be in attendance.
In January, CUC’s Emergency Response Team (ERT) and Athletic Department Administration (ADA) created a plan to allow a maximum of 50 fans to attend basketball games. CUC students, faculty, and staff were the only people permitted to attend sports games. “It was really cool to have fans attend a majority of our home games this year,” said Macy Klein, a sophomore basketball player. “Fans bring a different energy to the game whether that’s 200 or 50.”
As of March 26th, CUC announced an updated fan policy for athletic competitions. According to an email sent to coaches by Athletic Director Peter Gnan, the new policy allows for two immediate family members to attend games.
“The ERT evaluates the campus operations on an ongoing basis and, in doing so, we always use the current guidelines (local and state) to drive our decisions,” said Dean Kathy Gebhardt. “As the situation with COVID changes, we remain open to making changes to our protocols as well. In this case, we reviewed the COVID stats (both on-campus and within the state of IL) and due to the decline in confirmed cases, we decided to open things up a bit more on our campus.”
For now, Gebhardt doesn’t know when there will be additional changes made to the policy. “It’s hard to predict what the next phase could be but we continue to follow the guidelines and will make future decisions based on the state of COVID-19 on our campus and at the local and state levels,” said Gebhardt.
According to CUC’s COVID-19 dashboard, there has only been one positive COVID-19 case since the first basketball game with fans permitted was held on January 29. The updated statistics on the CUC COVID-19 Dashboard posted on the university’s website says there were only two positive cases during February. This is a promising trend after January had 12 confirmed positive cases. In addition, Illinois has seen a sharp decrease in the number of positive cases since the start of the year. The seven-day statewide positivity rate for Feb. 28 to March 6 was 2.3% according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Janet Wolbert, assistant athletics director, expressed her happiness with the current low numbers of COVID-19 cases on campus. “It’s exciting to have fans in attendance at CUC games again, but the numbers also show that our policies are working,” said Wolbert.
Student athletes still remain optimistic for larger numbers of fans for spring athletics. “I really hope we can have more fans in the spring,” said Bailey Steinkamp, a sophomore lacrosse player. “It would mean so much to me, as well as for my teammates, to have fans in the stands supporting us.”
Steinkamp, also a member of the women’s basketball team, had the opportunity to play in front of her mom during the game at Aurora University on February 20. “I can’t tell you how exciting it was for me to see my mom in the stands again at one of my games,” said Steinkamp. “I think she was more excited than me!”
The main difference between the winter and spring seasons is that more competitions are held outdoors in the open air. Sports like football, baseball, soccer, and lacrosse allow for more social distancing and the stadiums have larger seating capacities. Volleyball, on the other hand, is restricted to Geiseman Gymnasium’s current modified seating capacity.
In addition, the university and Northern Athletic Collegiate Conference (NACC) may have different policies than other schools. Before the men’s volleyball game between CUC and North Central College on February 13 was postponed, fans were not allowed to attend the game. Currently, North Central College, a member of the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin (CCIW), does not permit any of their teams to compete with fans in attendance.
Here in River Forest, CUC spring athletics are in full swing and offer on-campus students, faculty, and staff an opportunity for entertainment nearly every weekday and every weekend. Gebhardt, a former CUC athlete, believes athletics are a huge part of the on-campus experience. “We (the ERT and the CUC administration) believe that attending athletic events is an important part of the student experience and we are pleased to be able to offer the opportunity to attend the games in-person,” Gebhardt said.
For more information regarding the university’s current fan attendance policies, visit www.cucougars.com.