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ISU police prep for first home game with fans

15,000 fans will be allowed at Jack Trice Saturday. Iowa State University are learning how to keep fans safe in the middle of a global pandemic.
Credit: AP
FILE - In this Aug. 31, 2019, file photo, Iowa State's Jack Trice Stadium is shown before an NCAA college football game against Northern Iowa, in Ames. Iowa State President Wendy Wintersteen has transferred oversight of the Iowa State Center, a series of buildings near Hilton Coliseum and Jack Trice Stadium, to the athletic department. It has also tabbed athletic director Jamie Pollard to be the head of a process to redesign the area as an “arts, culture, and community district.” The school announced the plan on Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019, saying that Pollard and Iowa State Research Park President Rick Sanders will lead a feasibility study to build a multi-use development district between Hilton and Jack Trice _ which is now largely just parking lots. The proposed plan would also look into relocating commuter and football game day parking to a new paved parking area east of the stadium. (AP Photo/Matthew Putney, File)

AMES, Iowa — The Iowa State Cyclones will take on the Oklahoma Sooners at Jack Trice Stadium Saturday, and 15,000 fans will be allowed into the stadium.

The Iowa State University Police Department (ISUPD) is preparing for what the evening may bring.

"Normal game day we're actually starting about six hours ahead of the start time," said ISUPD Chief Michael Newton. Fans usually gather around that time before every game to kick-off normal Saturday football activities. 

But in a COVID-19 world, like everywhere else, things are going to be different.

"The the last home football game with no fans was really interesting. None of us knew what to expect, you know, we knew we were gonna only have a couple thousand fan fans in there," Newton said. The only fans allowed at the season opener were families of players. 

"It was a very different atmosphere than we're used to here at Iowa State," said Newton.

It was a pleasant surprise then, but what surprises are in store for this Saturday? 

"We're under 25% in the fan base that's coming," Newton said, "and we're not really sure what to exactly expect." 

Newton said the parking lots are opening two hours before the game. The department is still figuring out what the traffic pattern will look like without at a thinner capacity. 

"Because we're used to the normal game day where it's really heavy traffic flows and we don't know what tomorrow will have in store. So what we had to do is we had to develop a plan based on what we think might happen," Newton said.

Officers aren't going in completely blind. They're able to use experience from Hilton Coliseum events since it's a similar amount of spectators. 

Newton said no tailgating is allowed before the game, so officers will be on the lookout for any violations. 

The department doesn't expect a lot of interactions with the public, in fact, contacts have been low the entire semester. 

"We're just not seeing a lot of activity and so we're excited to have this football game because hopefully we'll give our students and fans a safe environment to come in enjoy being around others," said Newton. 

Overall, the department and fans alike are looking forward to being at the stadium for gameday. This game could decide the fate for fans allowed at future games.

"What we encourage everyone to do is follow the guidelines follow the mitigation strategies that we have in place that these mitigation strategies are important to keep the community healthy. And if people follow this and do the things that we're asking them to do, it will hopefully guarantee that we can have fans back in the stadium for the remainder of the season," Newton said.