Fans will be in the stands at FirstEnergy Stadium when the Browns open the home schedule Sept. 17 against the Bengals in prime time.
Just not as many as the Browns hoped.
Gov. Mike DeWine announced Saturday he will allow 6,000 fans at the first two home games for the Browns and Bengals, granting their variance requests. During the coronavirus pandemic, the state health department has capped attendance at sporting events at 1,500.
The tickets will be made available only to season-ticket holders.
“This year will certainly be different, but both the Browns and the Bengals have worked exceedingly hard and have made extensive preparations to welcome a limited number of fans to their stadiums safely,” DeWine said in the news release. “These very thorough plans and safety precautions warrant a two-game trial to try and accommodate fans, at reduced capacities with social distancing and masks.”
FirstEnergy Stadium’s capacity is 67,895, and owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam proposed allowing 20 percent attendance (13,579), believing they can safely host that many fans.
The ruling states no more than 1,500 fans can be in each quarter of the stadiums. Fans must use the designated entrance for their ticket and wear a mask in accordance with state regulations.
DeWine said he spoke with leadership of the Browns and Bengals to inform them of the decision.
“We are thrilled, particularly on behalf of our fans, that we received approval to welcome back a limited capacity of approximately 10 percent at FirstEnergy Stadium for our first two home games in September,” a Browns spokesman wrote in a statement. “We will continue to closely monitor the ever-evolving circumstances related to COVID-19 … so we can properly adapt as needed with the hopes of potentially allowing more fans to attend games at a later date, if circumstances allow.
“We are confident in our plan and our ability to execute it. We also fully recognize that education, collective buy-in and a commitment to shared responsibility are extremely important to the plan’s success, along with diligent cooperation and compliance from our fans.”
Cleveland’s second home game is Sept. 27 against Washington. The two games approved for the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium are Oct. 4 vs. the Jaguars and Oct. 25 vs. the Browns. The Bengals previously announced they wouldn’t have fans at the opener, Sept. 13 against the Chargers.
The Browns’ plan, which was submitted to the state and local health departments, requires facial coverings, a quadrant system that separates fans, recommended time windows for entry, pregame health screenings and ticket distribution in “pods of known fans.”
Season-ticket holders were emailed a letter laying out the process for acquiring tickets, which will be distributed on a game-by-game basis. The season-ticket holders will be placed in groups based on tenure and PSL status, with the longest-tenured first in line.