Friday night football returns to New Mexico tonight and following an update in the COVID-19 pandemic guidelines late Thursday night, fans will be allowed in the stands when play kicks off.
Lovington football coach Anthony Gonzales was excited the news broke before his team plays its first game of the season tonight.
“It is unbelievable,” Gonzales said. “I have actually been thinking about it all day long. As hard as these kids work, and as hard as these kids invest, and for them to be blessed enough to have the opportunity to play, it is a reward for them. But I think what people don’t really understand either, is parents invest a lot too. There is a lot that goes in it from the parents’ side of it and they want to see their babies play. I am just really excited for the parents and the fans for them to get an opportunity to watch their kids play the greatest game in the world.”
In accordance with the newest guidelines approved by the Public Education Department, the New Mexico Activities Association issued a statement with the following guidelines for fans attending gamesL
• Up to 75 percent capacity of an outdoor spectator area
• Up to 33 percent capacity of an indoor spectator area
• Up to 50 percent capacity of an outdoor spectator area
• Up to 25 percent capacity of an indoor spectator area
• Up to 25 percent capacity of an outdoor spectator area
In every case, the host team’s county color governs the spectator capacity.
According to Lovington Athletic Director Robert Arreola, the capacity of Wildcat Stadium is between 4,500 to 5,000.
“We have done the math already, so we are probably looking at anywhere from 1,100 to 1,200 or 1,250 (fans),” Arreola said.
Because Lea County is a yellow county, this means fans are only allowed to attend outdoor sports at this time. Lovington, Jal, and Tatum all open football season at home. Lovington kicks off the season tonight while Jal and Tatum start on Saturday. The Hobbs girls’ soccer team begins its season Saturday afternoon.
“It will be a challenge, but we just have to put a game plan together,” Arreola said. “Our superintendent, Mrs. Gandy said we are going to meet (this) morning and come up with a game plan. It is juts like anything else, you have to be ready for it. It was a surprise, but more than anything, I am excited for our kids, our community, and of course our parents.”
Lovington will put tickets on sale this morning starting at 10 a.m. at the high school. Tickets will be available on a first come, first serve basis and those who buy tickets will get an actual ticket.
As for Hobbs, it is moving to a paperless ticket system this year and was planning to run a test of the new system during the Eagles home game against Lovington, but will now do that today so fans can attend Saturday’s girls soccer game.
“We are switching to ticket-less tickets, so we are making that transition,” Wilson said. “We had set a practice run for next week during the Lovington game with some of our essential workers. Now we are going to have to move it to (today). That is a good problem.”
Wilson believes the capacity of Watson Memorial Stadium is 18,000. Hobbs is going to put a plan together today on who can get tickets, but Wilson said she wants to open ticket sales to parents first.
“I have a meeting with our ticketless ticket people in the morning at 9 a.m.,” she said. “We want to open it up to the parents first and give them at least 24 hours to purchase their tickets. Then we will open it up to whatever is not purchased by parents to the general public. Once we hit the capacity of Watson, the ticket sales will shut off.”
According to Wilson, those interested in getting tickets for Hobbs home games, tickets can be purchased via a link on the Hobbs schools website.