‘Parents want to be there’: Families rejoice after state expands prep outdoor athletics capacity to 30 percent

New executive order allows more fans at N.C. sporting events

WAXHAW, N.C. (WBTV) - Governor Roy Cooper has signed an executive order that allows more fans at all sporting events in North Carolina, including high school athletics.

The order, that goes into effect on Friday, Feb. 26, lifts the Modified Stay at Home order, which in turn removes the state’s curfew.

Sports fans eager to return to games and events

Outdoor sports venues, like high school football, will have a 30 percent capacity but there will no longer be a 100-person cap.

Specifically for outdoor sports, like high school football, they will still be limited to 30-percent capacity but will no longer have a 100-person cap.

However, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools say they will stick to the 100 spectator rule through the end of this week, which includes Friday’s season-openers.

CMS released this statement:

“Governor Cooper announced today the state will allow increased numbers of spectators at sporting events beginning at 5 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 26.

“On March 1, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools will begin to allow 500 spectators at outdoor athletic contests. The home team will be allowed 300 spectators and the visiting team 200 spectators. CMS athletic directors will communicate information to families on digital ticket sale structure and availability. Face coverings are required on CMS property at all times and social distancing regulations remain in effect.

“CMS will remain at the current limit of 100 spectators at outdoor athletic events through the end of this week.

“Friday morning, the North Carolina High School Athletic Association will send participating schools final details for basketball playoff games scheduled on Saturday, Feb. 27. Additional information will be communicated when received.”

Thousands of parents in North Carolina have been fighting for this larger capacity for weeks.

A petition, started by a Union County mom, gained more than 45,000 signatures in a few weeks. It called for a larger capacity, saying the previous 100 person limit at outdoor stadiums didn’t make sense, especially since many stadiums can hold thousands.

Parents said this wasn’t just about sports, but important for them to watch their children on the field. For many seniors, it would be their last time.

“We don’t want to miss out on, to us, some of the most important events in our lives and our kids’ lives,” said Meagen O’Connell, who started the petition in February.

Over the course of three weeks, she was able to enlist the help of Senator Todd Johnson who presented a bill to the State House to increase capacity. Together, along with several other supporters, presented the petition to lawmakers on Wednesday.

“You have these kids and you just want to be a part of their lives. When they get to high school you notice those moments are few and far between,” she said. “We started at 5 years old watching them. We don’t want to miss watching them whether they’re 15, 16, 17, 18 years old.”

Other Weddington High School parents are thrilled too.

For the Casciola family, it’s their last chance to watch their son play football in high school.

“It’s his senior year. Senior parents want to be there. You want to bring the grandparents, family friends, so I think the news today is pretty good,” said Sheila Casciola.

The Casciola’s are now planning for Friday, Weddington High School’s first football game of the school year.

Both will get to watch their son Dante play, something they weren’t sure would be able to happen just a few hours earlier.

“This looks like the beginning of the opening of the states. It’s good news for all the athletics and obviously the small businesses. It’s a wonderful thing,” said Gene Casciola. “Thank you to Governor Cooper for listening.”

“These guys have been my biggest supporters since I was 5 years old. For them to be there for my last year, and I know a lot of guys its their last year playing football. It’s huge,” said their son, Dante.

Indoor sports are working a little differently. For indoor stadiums, the capacity is 30 percent or 250 people, whichever is less.

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