San Juan County sports teams excited for increased fan capacities under the "green" level
FARMINGTON — Finally reaching the highly-anticipated "green" COVID-19 restriction level has special significance for the New Mexico sports scene, especially in San Juan County.
Under the "green" level, indoor sports events like volleyball are allowed 25% fan capacity, while outdoor sports events, including football and soccer, are allowed 50% fan capacity. San Juan County achieved that feat on Wednesday, and teams couldn't be happier.
“I think it’s awesome. I think it’s the right thing to do,” Kirtland Central football coach Greg Jenks said. “Hopefully, more and more people are getting the chance to get vaccines.”
It's particularly significant for football teams like Kirtland and Bloomfield, which will play in their home openers this weekend.
“Perfect timing. We’re hoping to have a good crowd,” Bloomfield athletic director Ben Tensay said. “It’s a good opportunity, especially (for) the senior parents. They’re able to see their (kids’) last games in person. It’s going to be beneficial to everybody.”
Excitement doesn't end with outdoor sports
Under the "yellow" level, fans can't attend volleyball matches. Simply getting to "green" changes that.
“Everyone’s doing their part making it ‘green.’ For the most part, I’m glad to see a little bit of the normalcy coming back… Just overjoyed,” Kirtland volleyball coach Nadia Begay-Watson said. “It’s going to help the kids play better… It’s healthy to have your family there cheering for you.”
Piedra Vista football coach Jared Howell said the increased capacity ensures players will be able to see loved ones who may not have been able to attend under the 25% capacity limit.
“Not having mom and dad there, or family there, it’s a big deal,” Howell said.
Howell also said he’s excited about the idea that more student fans, including PV players’ closest friends outside of football, can now attend games to help re-establish that socialization.
“I’d love for kids to be able to experience that again. We do have an athletic community… They’re all going through the same experiences,” Howell said. “They’re social animals, and they’ve been denied that.”
Maintaining "green" a key focus
Jenks said he believes ongoing vaccination efforts will help San Juan County at least maintain “green” status and not revert back to “yellow.”
“I don’t see it going back at all,” Jenks said.
Howell hopes to at least remain in “green,” if not reach the “turquoise” level, by the March 24 “red to green” update because the PV-Farmington game will take place on March 26.
To help ensure San Juan County doesn’t slip back to "yellow," Begay-Watson said she hopes volleyball fans will be responsible and refrain from attending matches if they’re not feeling well.
“We really need to keep it together,” said Begay-Watson, whose team will host Bloomfield on Saturday. "“The more support we can get from our fans will be helpful."
Tensay said it's important to still "do everything right" when it comes to following COVID-safe practices, noting that basketball will start in a couple weeks.
“We need to make sure we’re following those guidelines,” Tensay said.
Matt Hollinshead covers sports and business for the Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577, email@example.com and on Twitter at @MattH_717.
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