CHARLOTTE, N.C. (The Charlotte Observer) - The Carolina Panthers increased attendance for the first time this season at Bank of America Stadium for Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Panthers announced that the official attendance for the game was 5,815.
Under North Carolina’s Phase 3 plan, which was extended Tuesday to go through Dec. 4. by governor Roy Cooper, spectators at professional and collegiate sporting events at large outdoor facilities (defined as those with a seating capacity of 10,000 or more) are limited to 7% of the facility’s total seating capacity to curb the spread of COVID-19.
For Bank of America Stadium, that means the team can have 5,240 at Panthers games, as they have had for the past three home games since Oct. 4.
However, the team received an exemption from the governor’s office, per Mecklenburg County, to go beyond that limit and host an increased number of fans in the 500 level of the stadium — the upper deck.
A team spokesperson confirmed Sunday that state and local health officials agreed the team could distribute a limited number of additional upper level tickets for the game while remaining in compliance with the governor’s order. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and the governor’s office have not yet returned requests for comment.
Sunday was the second game this year that the Panthers have hosted fans in the 500 level. The Panthers originally only made seats available on the lower bowl and club level and re-distributed some of the 5,240 seats to the upper deck for the Thursday night game vs. the Atlanta Falcons Oct. 29.
The Panthers' first home game of the season Sept. 13 had no fans in attendance as the NC DHHS denied the request for a capacity exception at the time in order to host people in the stands.
There have not been any major complications up to this point in terms of COVID-19 cases being linked to attending NFL games.
Nineteen of 32 NFL teams, including the Panthers, have had fans in attendance this year.
The team put in place a variety of COVID-19 safety measures before welcoming fans. The Panthers planned new ways to have fans enter and move around safely with concourses split into two lanes and arrows directing fans which way to walk.
Each section has a designated entry gate that is listed on mobile tickets.
All fans are required to wear face coverings, and hand sanitizer is available throughout the stadium. Other changes to the gameday experience include the Panthers implementing a cashless approach and offering fans the option of pre-ordering concessions by 5 p.m. two days before the game.
The Panthers do not have any players on the league’s reserve/COVID-19 list. Three players — offensive linemen Tyler Larsen and Michael Schofield and cornerback Rasul Douglas — came off the list prior to last week’s game vs. the Kansas City Chiefs.
The NFL has seen an increase in positive COVID-19 cases around the league, reflecting what is happening around the country. Fifty six NFL employees, 15 players and 41 team staff members had confirmed positive tests from Nov. 1 to Nov. 7. — more than twice the total of any other period that the league reported. Just under 8,000 players and team personnel are tested.