WEST LAFAYETTE — The college football season is right around the corner. Saturday, Sept. 4 IU plays on the road in Iowa and Purdue plays host to Oregon State.
It’ll be the first time fans have been allowed in the stands at a home football game at Ross-Ade Stadium since 2019 as colleges haven’t been allowed to have full capacity crowds since then.
Much around the stadium has changed in the time fans have been away, with new screens, new ticketing options, and connectivity but with the Delta Variant still running rampant throughout Indiana, Boilermaker brass says you can expect a return to game days of old at Purdue.
“Our fans haven’t been in the stadium since 2019 and we have stayed very busy since then,” Purdue Chief Revenue Officer Tom Moreland said. “when you come into Ross Ade, you’re gonna see some great improvements. We have a brand-new video board in the south end zone. We have our north end zone ribbon board, but when you look at that 56 feet tall by 150-foot-wide video board in the south end zone… and with this being a night game at 7 o’clock, that video board is gonna absolutely light up all of Ross Ade stadium. It’s got the highest definition and 4K this, UHD that it’s got all the bells and whistles and I think our fans are absolutely gonna love it.”
Another, less noticeable improvement, is connectivity inside the stadium.
“What our fans have told us the last couple of years is they wanna make sure they get on their cell phone. They wanna go on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. They wanna be able to text their friends and family about how exciting the game is,” Moreland said. “When you look at that screen, if you want to compare to the old one this new video board is about eight times larger and it is the largest in college football. So, we think our fans are gonna absolutely love it.”
While much is new – you can expect a return to pre-COVID rules around game day.
“People are asking us. ‘Am I gonna have to wear a mask at tailgating?’ Absolutely not. Have a great time tailgating. When you’re in the stands, we’re not gonna require a mask either,” Moreland said. “The protocols that we have in place at Purdue. They’re founded in science. They just make sense.”
No proof of a negative test – no masks required either. If you’re at the game Saturday, along with an expected 12,000 students, they’re the ones to thank for the lax rules.
“80 percent of students have been vaccinated but when you look at the Purdue football program, when you look at our student-athletes, you look at our coaches, you look at our staff, that numbers actually north of 95 percent,” Moreland said. “It’s a clear reflection of alignment here at Purdue, that we understand the importance of getting the vaccine.”
Purdue Senior Jackson Menzel makes up part of the unvaccinated 20%. He was waiting for FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine before he got his shot.
Now that it’s approved – he anticipates getting it and enjoying the football season ahead.
“It’s almost you know, feeling freedom again,” Menzel said. “The noise. The aura. It’s the best part about it. Time and time again… you go to a football game it’s extremely loud. That’s really what makes it fun. It’s the roar of the crowd all being together.”
Tippecanoe County’s COVID positivity rate checks in at 8% but Purdue officials say they’re not worried about games this fall becoming ‘super spreader’ events.
“While we understand some people may be concerned, we think the protocols and what we have in place here creates a really safe environment,” Moreland said. “Whether it’s here for live sporting events, concerts, even look at European soccer – they’re doing these types of events too, and more often than not they’re not classified as a “super spreader” events anymore. I think when you look at the Indianapolis 500 and you talk to their leadership; they would probably say the same thing given the size and our location being an outdoor venue.”
Protect Purdue outlined a return to Fall 2021 events on Aug. 4. The guidelines went into effect on the 16th.
Of note within the plan; masks are required at all indoor events.