AUSTIN (KXAN) — University of Texas at Austin students hoping to catch the Longhorns’ season opener on Saturday at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium will first have to test negative for COVID-19.
Students who purchased the Big Ticket package, which provides access to all UT football, volleyball, soccer, basketball, baseball, softball games and Texas Relays, will have to take a complimentary but mandatory COVID-19 test on Friday.
Testing took place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Bellmont Hall Ticket Office Lobby located inside Gate 4 of Memorial Stadium. Student Big Ticket holders will have to fill out a consent form before being tested and present a UT student ID.
In order to claim a ticket for Saturday’s game, students will have to test negative. Once a student has tested negative, the student will be able to claim their ticket online Saturday morning, but there is a limit.
KXAN saw students going in for the nasal swab, rapid COVID-19 tests on Friday.
“I’m going into it with an open mind. I’m glad we’re going to be able to share this story that we went to a football game on a year when not a lot of other people got to go,” UT junior Michael Gresser said.
The University says 3,000 students purchased the Big Ticket package. The school won’t know how many of those students will attend the game until after testing.
“We’ll be in our own little area, so we’re not really mingling with the general public as much,” said Freshman Kirsten Richards, who plans on attending. “I think if we were, it’d be another consideration to think of.”
- RELATED: UT’s plan for 25,000 fans at Longhorns football games is too many people, Austin’s top doctor says
UT originally planned it would open the gates at DKR to fans at 25% capacity. The stadium can hold a little over 100,000 people, at 25% capacity, roughly 25,000 fans would fill the stands with that plan.
However, KXAN has confirmed that UT will let 18,000 fans in the stadium.
When under the impression UT was staying with the 25% figure for capacity, it was a concern for Interim Medical Director and Health Authority for Austin Public Health Dr. Mark Escott.
“Our gathering limit is 10,” he explained. “Having 25,000 people in one place is a concern.”
In a news conference on Wednesday, Escott said despite Travis County’s COVID-19 positivity rate falling below 5%, he is worried.
The health official believes the county could experience a rise in cases following the Labor Day weekend and fears up to 50 people could contract the virus at Saturday’s football game when the Longhorns host the UTEP Miners.
“Ultimately, people have to make a decision whether or not they are going to go to the game,” Escott said. “I will be watching on my TV.”
Escott said he worries the most about the increased risk of transmission in lines for the bathroom and concession stands.
UT will require face masks, eliminate tailgating, and add 225 hand sanitizer kiosks throughout the stadium. They will also require fans to enter the stadium through a specific gate and have markings to maintain social distancing.
While many universities across the country have delayed the football season, UT remains on schedule. Three other Big 12 teams have had to delay their season openers for reasons related to COVID-19. They include Baylor, Oklahoma State and TCU.
Football at Texas State
The Texas State Bobcats nearly pulled off an upset against Southern Methodist University on Saturday at Bobcat Stadium, but fell to the Mustangs 31-24.
The university set its capacity at Bobcat Stadium to 25%. That’s about 7,500 fans inside the stadium that can hold 30,000.
“It’s going to be a challenge–everyone is trying to figure out how we’re going to make this happen. I think the fans will rise to the occasion, and everyone will make this a great game-day experience,” said Bobcat fan Roger Boyd.
Texas State officials banned tailgating, and they will enforce social distancing guidelines all season.