NC Republicans push bill that increases capacity of outdoor high school sports facilities

Capitol Report

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Though Gov. Roy Cooper (D) is allowing for more sports fans to attend games starting Friday, Republicans in the General Assembly say his latest executive order doesn’t go far enough and are moving forward with legislation to try to further increase the capacity limits.

Cooper’s next executive order, which takes effect Friday at 5 p.m., will allow outdoor sports venues, including high schools, to have fans in the stands at 30 percent of capacity.

Currently, those events are limited to 100 people.

Indoor sports venues that seat at least 5,000 people will be allowed to operate at 15 percent capacity.

Under a bill that passed out of a Senate committee Thursday, Sen. Todd Johnson (R-Union County) wants outdoor high school sports facilities to be able to operate at 40 percent of capacity.

“Well, it all depends if you’re the 31st percent and can’t get into the game, then it is a big deal,” said Johnson. “Community members that don’t have people on the field, but they look forward to those Friday nights, building that community network and community unit is very important.”

The Senate is scheduled to vote on Johnson’s bill Monday night.

A separate bill will also be considered that applies only to 14 counties, allowing 50 percent capacity at outdoor venues.

Those counties include: Alamance, Anson, Haywood, Iredell, Moore, Onslow, Randolph, Richmond, Rockingham, Scotland, Stokes, Surry, Union and Yadkin.

As a local bill, it is not subject to a gubernatorial veto. 

Rep. Gale Adcock (D-Wake County) said she supports Cooper’s approach.

“We’re taking steps forward in ways that are measured and based on science. If we go too far, it’s very hard to pull back,” she said. “It’s much easier to take cautious steps, see how we do, go a little further each time, than take too big a step and have to shut down in a way that makes everybody anxious.”

Holly Attanasio was among the parents pushing for Cooper to allow for more people to attend games.

Her son Jakson plays football for Sanderson High School in Raleigh.

Wake County school administrators have not allowed fans from away teams to watch in person.

“As a parent of a child who was injured on the field, it’s really important in these contact sports for you to be near your children,” she said. “We recognize that this isn’t a regular year and season, and we’re not going to be able to have the packed stands. We don’t expect that. That’s not what we’re looking for.”

Once Cooper’s new executive order takes effect Friday, it’ll be in place for four weeks.

A House bill filed earlier this week also seeks to increase capacity for both indoor and outdoor sports venues at public and private schools.

The bill calls for a minimum of 25 percent capacity and a maximum of 50 percent capacity.

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