University Park students invited to socially distanced football viewing event

October 27, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State is providing a new opportunity at University Park to support the Nittany Lion football team for the upcoming game against Ohio State. With preparations underway for the home football games to take place without fans in Beaver Stadium and while social activities cannot take place as usual, the University recognizes the importance of creating alternative options for students to come together while continuing to do their part to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. 

For students, whose need for social connections has not ceased in the face of the pandemic, the University has remained committed to finding ways to provide support, particularly for those who live on campus and may not have other options. University Park students who live on campus will be invited to watch the first home football game outdoors in a socially distant manner, in accordance with public health guidelines and the governor’s limitations. Seats will be made available to first-year students and will extend to other on-campus residents if space allows.  

Those who choose to support the Nittany Lions on their own, apart from these events, should do so in a manner that is safe for themselves and the community — outdoors if possible, together with individuals that you’re already in frequent contact with (e.g. housemates), and avoiding gatherings that mix together multiple apartments/houses. 

“There is strong empirical evidence to show that masked outdoor events have lower risk of transmission,” said Matt Ferrari, associate professor of biology, researcher in the Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics, and co-chair of the Public Health and Science Assessment task force. “In fact, in the context of public health, it is in our best interest to work to offer outdoor activities that are attractive to our students and that can help deter less-safe behaviors.” 

The event, which will take place on Oct. 31 — with the game broadcast starting at 7:30 p.m. — will provide designated areas for students to gather while still following the critical protocols in place to protect the health and safety of the community.  

“In the early stages of the pandemic, as we welcomed students onto our campuses and initiated new COVID-19 management plans, public health concerns meant taking a firmer line and curtailing all activities,” said Vice President for Student Affairs Damon Sims. “But with more knowledge at our disposal now an organized approach that decreases risk by meeting certain thresholds with masking and distancing will allow us to carefully offer adapted versions of activities.” 

Sims continued, “We are using the latest information as we work to deliver activities to support their well-being and complement their educational experience while remaining vigilant in our mitigation efforts.” 

The event is free but will require pre-registration, an email will be sent to eligible students on Monday, Oct. 26, with information on how to acquire a ticket. To register, University Park students will log in to the Bryce Jordan Center Ticketmaster platform, enter pods of one or two students and receive mobile (non-transferrable) tickets to scan upon entry. Depending on the time of registration, students will be assigned to either Panzer Stadium (Penn State’s lacrosse facility), Beard Field at Nittany Lion Softball Park or Medlar Field at Lubrano Park (home of the Nittany Lion baseball team). A live feed of the game will be broadcast on digital screens. Free snack packs will be distributed, and some attendees may receive prizes, including Apple Watches and AirPods, Amazon gift cards, restaurant gift cards, ball caps, and outdoor chairs and tents. 

“As with many University efforts, this initiative is made possible through the generous support of numerous partners, and students will be able to enjoy the event at no cost to them,” said David Gray, senior vice president for Finance and Business/treasurer. “The Core Group, Gardners Candies, General Mills, Kellogg’s, the Penn State Bakery, the Penn State Berkey Creamery, Pepsi and Utz are donating pre-packaged snacks and bottles of water for our students. Chobani, Dart Biz, the Downtown Improvement District, General Mills, Innopak, Kellogg’s, Office Depot, Pepsi and Utz are also donating prizes to add to the festivities. We want to extend our appreciation to these organizations for their part in helping to make this watch event a memorable addition to the fall football season.” 

Ferrari further explained, “We know from research in the field of harm reduction that an approach focusing only on disciplinary measures — without offering positive alternatives to a community — can result in more detrimental impacts to public health. While eliminating risk entirely isn’t possible, a strategy that aims to incentivize less-risky choices can reduce overall harm to the community.”   

Attendance will be limited based upon venue capacities and in accordance with Gov. Tom Wolf’s recently adjusted guidelines for gatherings, and students will have assigned seats in the stands or turf, socially distanced with a six-foot radius between pods. Attendees will be required to complete the COVID-19 symptom checker, available through the Penn State Go app, prior to arrival. The Office of Physical Plant has been actively cleaning these venues, as student-athletes are currently using them for practices. Consistent with the University’s response to the pandemic, the involvement of infectious disease experts has been integral to the planning process. 

Throughout the semester, developing options that support the overall well-being of students while also adhering to public health guidelines has called for creative work by faculty and staff across the University, and the viewing event is an extension of these efforts. 

“Prevention research has long shown us the benefits of being proactive in our approach to pressing health issues, allowing us to mitigate risks posed to ourselves, our families and our communities,” said Stephanie T. Lanza, director of the Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center. “Though the pandemic has posed new barriers to our everyday interactions, we can apply proven prevention behaviors in our daily lives as we work to create opportunities to connect with others during this time.” 

Lanza continued, “Acknowledging and working to meet the need for togetherness is one way to help shift collective attitudes for the better and build greater commitment to the types of behaviors that will support public health efforts while allowing us to connect and thrive.”   

Penn State students will continue to be asked to do their part to limit the spread of COVID-19 — and attendees will be reminded to follow all public health protocols throughout the event. Importantly, a peer-to-peer component will provide additional emphasis around guidelines and expectations. This fall, as part of the Public Health Ambassador Program, student employees were trained to safely and strategically engage in dialogue with their peers about the importance of mask-wearing, physical distancing, proper cough/hand hygiene, and to assist in answering questions and outlining expectations surrounding health and safety guidelines at the University. These students, along with students who are part of Penn State’s Lion Ambassadors program, will be in attendance at the watch event and will continue to encourage compliance while allowing for a spirited atmosphere.  

In addition to the outdoor football viewing event, there are other opportunities for the Penn State community to feel connected from home. Penn State Athletics has announced the “Virtual Valley Experience” as a way to virtually bring Nittany Lion fans to football game days. Fans from anywhere will be able to purchase cutouts of themselves to be placed inside Beaver Stadium for the entire 2020 football season, and portions of the net proceeds from this initiative will be donated to THON, as well as Penn State equity and inclusion programs: the Bunton-Waller scholarship program and Multicultural Faculty Development Support Funds. Additionally, the Raise the Song virtual campaign asks Penn State fans to submit videos of themselves cheering on the Nittany Lions. Those videos will be used in-stadium on game day to support our student-athletes. Videos may also be featured during virtual programming or on Penn State Athletics’ social media accounts.  

 

Last Updated October 27, 2020