ORLANDO, Fla. – Orlando City Soccer Club hosted Nashville on Wednesday for their first home game since February, at reduced capacity for phase one of continuation of play for Major League Soccer.
Orlando City won the game 3-1.
Face masks muffled the voices of fans eager to get back inside Exploria Stadium regardless of restrictions Wednesday night.
“I work construction I go through this every day multiple times it’s just another thing,” Derrek Palmer said as he waited in line.
Social distancing was mandatory for guests and temperature screenings were a must upon entry.
“We’re just happy to be able to get in, they have done a good job between the distancing between the seats,” Annastasia Palmer said.
After six months Orlando City soccer players were allowed to play in front of fans like Gil Ramos once again with new health protocols.
“Just comply with the rules, I don’t see the issue with doing the right thing. I feel like it’s a blessing to be here in the first place honestly,” Ramos said.
The new guidelines implemented affected the game before kickoff they included no interaction between players and fans plus a new stadium capacity of no more than 25%. It’s a measure Ramos said will affect game energy without fans packing the stadium’s seats.
“Not to have those screaming fans in your face and to have the cheering, or song, or music and smoke,” Ramos said.
The team said they have set the max capacity at 25%, which is a little more than 6,000 fans.
The match was the first to have fans in-person in Orlando since the pandemic caused cancellations across all major league sports.
In an online video, the team said it will be taking other precautions, including social distancing, required masks, temperatures being taken at the front gates, no bags allowed, no fan/player interaction and increased cleaning, which includes power washing the seats.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer did not attend the game, however city employees who help run the Amway Center and Camping World Stadium were in attendance to observe the team’s safety protocols.
“They want to see how those procedures work out,” Dyer said.
Dyer told News 6 he recently toured Exploria Stadium firsthand and hopes fans will be able to maintain safety protocols.
“Enjoy the game, but to enjoy it safely,” he said. “Wear your mask, there’s no marching to the stadium in a group. If you’re feeling sick, don’t go to the game.”
The game comes two weeks after Dr. Raul Pino with the Florida Department of Health in Orange County and Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings both expressed concern about a possible return to the field at Exploria.
“I don’t believe that now is the time to relax any of those restrictions,” Demings said when asked about Orlando City Soccer at his weekly press briefing on Aug. 10.
A day after the Orlando City announcement Demings again expressed concerns.
“I’m going to be cautiously optimistic. I think is risky,” Demings said on Aug. 20, adding he does not have the local authority to stop it from happening.
Here are the other two home games Orlando City will play with fans having the opportunity to watch in-person:
vs. Atlanta at 8 p.m. on Sept. 5
vs. Inter Miami at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 12
The sale date for tickets has not been announced.
This will not be the first sport in the U.S. to allow fans at events during the pandemic.
Fans have been allowed to attend races for the NASCAR Cup Series at the Daytona International Speedway, attendees are spaced out at the events.
To buy tickets to the Orlando City match against Nashville, click here.