RENTON — Pete Carroll is fired up. He’s always fired up, of course, but he’s especially fired up to welcome fans back into Lumen Field for the Seahawks’ 2021 home opener Sunday.
Football, obviously, is more fun with fans in the stands, and the Seahawks will extend their streak of home sellouts to 148 games Sunday against the Tennessee Titans.
So, yes, Carroll is excited to again feel the thunderous noise and the pent-up energy from the 12s who weren’t allowed into home games in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic last year.
But he sounds most excited about how fans will be welcomed back — under strict orders from the team to be vaccinated, or provide proof of a negative COVID test, and with a mask on.
“I’m so proud of the leadership and the people who have made the decisions to put us with the standards that we’ve set,” Carroll said of the vaccine and mask mandate. “I think we’ve done all the right things, and it’s because we care and we’re looking after one another.”
Like the seasoned coach he is, Carroll offered something of a pregame speech to fans — encouraging them to follow the mandate and be patient with the verification process as they enter the stadium Sunday.
“Let’s have a great first ballgame, get everybody going,” Carroll said. “Hopefully everybody will find a way to do this for all the right reasons and make this a great event and learn how to do it. We’ll get better as we go; it won’t be smooth. Let’s go through all aspects of it, and just like the whole process of this COVID thing has not been smooth — it’s been a challenge, and you had to hang tough and work your way through it, knowing that you’re going to get it right. It’s the same thing coming to the stadium on game day.”
What to do on game day
After the Seahawks’ COVID protocols were announced this month, the team’s customer-service lines were flooded with calls from ticket holders who were upset or confused about the mandate.
The Seahawks made it clear they will not issue refunds to ticket holders.
“Folks just want to know how it affects them,” Seahawks Chief Operation Officer David Young said. “Our customer-service team has been tremendous in fielding those calls and letting folks know exactly how this is going to affect them, what they need to do to continue to enjoy Seahawks game day at Lumen Field. …
“You know, we all want to get back to normal, but the reality is the pandemic isn’t over. And I think a lot of people understand that. And this is the way that we can continue to enjoy large events at this point. We’re just happy that the fans have been understanding so far.”
The Seahawks joined other local sports teams in announcing their COVID mandates Sept. 7. The Kraken took its restrictions one step further than the rest; to attend a game for the Kraken’s inaugural NHL season inside the revamped Climate Pledge Arena, fans have to be vaccinated, with no option to present a negative COVID-19 test.
Young said he has been involved in weekly Zoom calls with officials from the other local sports teams, and with local and state health officials.
Because Seahawks games are played in an outdoor stadium, Young said there is a little more leeway for fans, thus the option for a negative test in lieu of a vaccination.
“We wanted to offer our fans options,” Young said. “You can be vaccinated, and we believe that is the best way to combat the virus in this pandemic. But you also have the option, if you’re not vaccinated, to bring in a test and show us a proof of a negative test taken within 72 hours of kickoff.”
Those mandates apply to all fans 12 and older. Per local heath guidelines, all fans and staff are also required to wear a mask at the stadium on game day, except while actively eating or drinking, regardless of vaccination status.
Young advises fans to arrive early Sunday. The verification system for a vaccine or negative test is a multi-step process, and lines outside Lumen Field are expected to be long.
“As early as possible, for a lot of reasons,” Young said. “Just check and double-check to make sure you’ve got your tickets, make sure you’ve got either your vaccination card or your proof of negative test. Set it out, set it aside, and make sure you’ve got that before you leave your home.”
Young said there will be greeters staffed outside the stadium assisting folks on where to go and how to verify their vaccine card or test results. Once in a line at a security checkpoint, fans can provide either the CDC-issued hard copy of their vaccine card or a digital copy of it on their phone.
“We take our role very seriously in the community … and we feel that it’s important for us to be a leader in this space, and to provide a safe environment for our fans on game days,” Young said. “We’re a service organization, and we pride ourselves on Lumen Field being the best fan experience, but you can’t have that fan experience without safety, that’s always our top priority.”