The University of South Carolina will let more fans into Williams-Brice Stadium in less than two weeks for the football team’s annual spring game — but capacity will still be limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Approximately 15,000 fans will be allowed to attend the Garnet and Black Game on April 24, USC announced Thursday, an increase from the originally announced capacity of 9,000.
The reason for the increase, according to the university’s press release, actually lies across the street from the stadium in Gamecock Park, where the university and Prisma Health have hosted a COVID-19 vaccination site for several months now.
“As we developed our initial plans for the spring game, it was important that we did not interrupt Prisma’s ability to effectively provide vaccinations,” athletic director Ray Tanner said in a statement. “As vaccinations became more widely available over the last month, it also became more feasible for Prisma’s vaccination clinic and the spring game to operate simultaneously without negatively impacting vaccination efforts. We’re looking forward to hosting our great fans at the Garnet and Black Spring Game while continuing to partner with Prisma to serve the community.”
However, Gamecock Park will still be unavailable for parking on game day. And the new pricing system implemented — free for Gamecock Club members, $5 per ticket for the general public — will remain in place. Facial coverings and social distancing will also still be required.
While capacity for football will increase, though, restrictions currently in place at Founders Park, where the baseball team plays, will remain the same, according to Charles Bloom, the athletics department’s chief communications officer and chief of staff for Tanner.
Currently, Founders Park can be filled to around 25% capacity, with a maximum of 2,100 fans. That percentage was roughly the same for football in the fall, with 20,000 fans allowed out of the usual 80,250. With the spring game, capacity will be down to 18.7%. At Clemson, capacity for the spring game has been set at 19,000, the same as it was in the fall.
For much of football season and the start of baseball season, large gatherings of more than 250 people were restricted by executive order of Gov. Henry McMaster — USC and Clemson received waivers from the Department of Commerce to host the crowds they did.
In early March, though, McMaster announced he was lifting those restrictions. Now, there is no hard limit or regulation on gathering size, though McMaster and the Department of Health and Environmental Control continue to recommend that venues limit capacity to less than 50%.
Also this week, university President Bob Caslen said he did not believe requiring proof of COVID vaccination to enter South Carolina games would be necessary.
At the moment, 38.1% of South Carolina residents have at least one vaccine dose, while 24.3% are fully vaccinated. Currently, all South Carolinians age 16 and older can get their COVID-19 vaccine.
The Garnet and Black spring game, the Gamecocks’ debut in front of fans under new coach Shane Beamer, will kick off at 2 p.m. on April 24 and be streamed on SEC Network Plus.