Rhodes Stadium will be occupied for the first time in 15 months on Saturday when the Phoenix take on Davidson College at 1:30 p.m. in their first game of the new spring football season. Unlike other Elon University sporting events so far this academic year, fans will be in attendance as the bowl will be open at 7% capacity with attendees masked and physically distanced.
Some fans — like Elon alumnus Noble Marshall ‘70 — have been coming to games for decades. Others have never experienced an Elon football game, and Saturday’s contest will be their first.
Freshmen roommates Adam Batchelder, Joe DelConte and Peyton Emerson will be attending their first football game at Elon, an experience they’re looking forward to.
“We heard that the games were pretty fun and the team looks pretty good, so we’re excited to see them play,” DelConte said.
Fall sports were suspended in the fall semester due to COVID-19 and this will be the first time freshmen and transfer students are able to experience Division 1 athletics at Elon. Emerson said he feels similar to DelConte since this experience is a new one for him.
“I feel like [things are] just kind of starting to get back into that normal routine of college... things that you would expect. It's going to be exciting,” Emerson said.
Rhodes Stadium will be operating under North Carolina’s COVID-19 mass gathering limitations, which set restrictions on the number of fans in attendance. Venues that seat over 10,000 people, can operate at 7% capacity, Rhodes seats 11,250. Batchelder said the capacity limits makes the attending the game safe.
“Seven percent capacity is definitely going to keep things safe,” Batchelder said. “The space between seats should make everything work out as planned, and there shouldn't be any issues with it.”
Masks will be required for attendees — who will also be sitting in physically distanced seats — and concession services will be limited.
Marshall said he's concerned about how well other fans follow COVID-19 protocols while in attendance.
“You can't be here unless you can go by the COVID rules,” Marshall said. “I think the people that I know will respect the rules and they will do well with it, but there will probably be one or two who try to push it. And if they do, if they are no longer there at halftime, that’s their loss the way I look at it. So yeah. I hope they do the right thing.”
Tickets were made available to fans to purchase online earlier this week on a first-come-first-serve basis, opening up first to season ticket holders from last season, then to Phoenix Club members, then to general admission.
Marshall, one of the first Phoenix Club members to acquire tickets for the upcoming game, said he is ready to see the team play after over a year without football.
“I just want them to have a good season, and I think they'll still fight hard and try to do the best they can, even though they don't probably have the number of fans that they would expect to have,” Marshall said.
Some fans, like Marshall, are worried about getting tickets through the first-come-first-serve system. Even though he is a season ticket holder, Marshall said he worries that fans could miss out on going to games.
“That's going to present a problem. I think there'll be people who are season ticket holders that may not be able to go to some of the events,” he said.
Noble said he believes it will be difficult to secure tickets for more popular games against teams in Elon’s conference, such as James Madison University, Richmond University and the College of William & Mary.
“Those will be games that more fans will want to attend and the competition for tickets will go up at that time and I may not get a ticket,” Noble said. So, “It kind of is what it is.”
After Saturday’s game, the Phoenix will have three remaining home games this season. Their next scheduled matchup will be at Gardner-Webb University next weekend.