Dolphins, Hurricanes to Allow Only 13,000 (Masked) Fans in the Stands

Aerial view, drone photography of Hard Rock Stadium of the Miami Dolphins on November 29, 2019 in Miami Gardens, Florida, USA. Photo and Caption: By YES Market Media/

On Monday, August 24, life in South Florida started getting back to normal, slowly but surely. The Miami Dolphins and the Miami Hurricanes announced they will allow up to 13,000 fans with masks on at Hard Rock Stadium for their home openers in the 2020 season. This is all in an effort to try to stop the spread of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

It seems the safest alternative to opening at full capacity is to open with only 20% capacity in the stadium. The stadium’s capacity holds more than 65,000 people. Miami Dolphins vice chairman and CEO Tom Garfinkel said Monday afternoon at the stadium that the number can change, depending on how South Florida’s coronavirus statistics trend.

After the Dolphin’s Monday morning announcement, the University of Miami (UM) followed up with their own announcement a few hours later. Hurricanes athletic director Blake James had said his plan was to imitate the Dolphins.

UM hosts the University of Alabama at Birmingham on September 10 for its opener. The Dolphins’ first home game is in Week 2 of the NFL season, September 20 against the Buffalo Bills.

To comply with local guidelines, the stadium will implement social distancing; there will be socially-distanced seating clusters. There will also be mobile touchless entry into the stadium. Gate entry times will be listed on tickets and mask-wearing for fans will be strictly enforced. 

According to the Dolphins’ 46-page plan, green-lighted by local public health officials and the Miami-Dade Commission, fans and employees must wear masks when not eating or drinking, tailgating is prohibited, gate entry will be staggered to avoid bottlenecks and bathroom faucets, toilets and soap and paper towel dispensers will be “touchless.” Alcohol sales will be shut-off at half-time, after which visitors will be required to wear a mask at all times.

Stadium employees are prohibited from actively eating or drinking.

Garfinkel added that any fans who are not compliant will first be asked by stadium staff to wear their mask, and if staff has to escalate, fans could be ejected from the stadium and have their digital tickets discontinued so they can’t return for future games.

The NFL has no overall policy on fans in the stands at games for the 2020 season, with decisions left to the teams. Fifteen of the NFL’s 32 teams have ruled out spectators to start the season while the Dolphins are one of at least eight teams hoping to have a limited number of spectators, and many teams haven’t announced plans. Which safeguards to take for teams that allow fans are also left up to individual stadiums.

For example, other Florida teams, such as the Jacksonville Jaguars, plan to operate at 25 percent of TIAA Bank Field’s capacity, about 16,791 fans. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are still determining a capacity they will hold.

The Dolphins’ said long-time, season-ticket holders will have first priority to buy tickets. All season-ticket holders have the option to roll their 2020 payments into the 2021 season and retain all of their seniority, seats and associated benefits. UM also said season-ticket holders will have first priority for individual game ticket sales.