COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – After reviewing more than 100 pages of detailed planning submitted by Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, state and local officials waved the green flag on an IndyCar doubleheader for this weekend by granting a variance to a state order that will allow 6,000 fans Sept. 11-13 at the 2.2-mile road course in rural Morrow County.
The track argued in its request for a variance to Ohio’s order limiting spectators at sporting events that its massive outdoor facility would be able to host 9,600 spectators (12 percent of its 80,000) capacity.
“Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course is an ideal facility for fan separation because it sits on 380 acres,” track representatives wrote in the request, which NBC4 obtained Wednesday via public records request.
Gov. Mike DeWine signed an order in August that limits sporting events to 1,500 spectators or 15 percent fixed seated capacity, whichever is fewer, because of the coronavirus pandemic. DeWine on Tuesday granted Mid-Ohio a variance to that order, but allowed only 6,000 fans, compared to the track’s requested 9,600.
The governor’s office said Tuesday that it granted a variance to Mid-Ohio in part because of “its unique, large outdoor facility that can accommodate social distancing.”
Morrow County Health Commissioner Stephanie Bragg told NBC4 in a statement that the 6,000-fan figure was decided upon because it “is the best option at this time.” She noted the same spectator limit will be applied to two home games each for the NFL’s Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals.
Bragg added that county health officials completed onsite visits of the facility.
A Mid-Ohio spokesperson told NBC4 the track is “very appreciative” of the variance.
The 107 pages of planning – 66 pages from Mid-Ohio and 41 pages from IndyCar – reveal how representatives made their case to health officials on how they intend to “exceed” the state’s COVID-19 protocols and sports order “in every way,” track leaders wrote in their submission.
Mid-Ohio’s plan, dated Aug. 24 and submitted by track owner Green Savoree Racing Promotions to the Ohio Department of Health and the Morrow County Health District, outlines policies and procedures for spectators, track workers, IndyCar competitors and officials and media members.
Much of the submission consists of track leadership laying out the size and location of Mid-Ohio’s various viewing areas, camping grounds and other spectator areas. The track claimed it could host 27,923 “total spectators with social distancing” but officially requested 9,600.
The track’s submission notes that approximately six Ohio Stadiums could fit within the course, even including a graphic that overlays six stadiums on the track.
Other pages of Mid-Ohio’s submission include photos of its health protocols, including mask and glove stockpiles, hand sanitizer stations, roped-off grandstands, various posted reminders and altered concessions areas.
Protocols for this weekend’s Saturday-Sunday doubleheader will include “strictly maintained” social distancing and required face coverings, as well as temperature checks and health screenings upon entry.
Since grandstands will be closed, fans will instead have to watch the on the grassy viewing mounds around the track. As of publication, there seem to still be tickets available on Mid-Ohio’s website. Tickets will not be available at the gate.
Green Savoree’s submission to health officials also included a 41-page event plan from IndyCar that details protocols for drivers, teams and others affiliated with the series. IndyCar has been operating on these general guidelines all season, which include health screenings, face coverings and increased cleaning.
Procedures specific to Mid-Ohio will include the paddock and pit areas being a “secure zone and restricted work area” that is closed to spectators.
Race day protocols
Here is a breakdown of notable health guidelines from the track:
- Spectators will enter through Gate 1
- Everyone must always maintain six feet of social distance
- Viewing areas will be marked by painted boxes, which allow no more than four spectators each
- Concessions will have a limited menu and there will be no self-serve condiments
- Only one household can occupy a campsite
- People should not gather in groups of more than 10
More information is available on the track’s COVID-19 FAQ page.
Green Savoree, based outside Indianapolis, has owned Mid-Ohio since 2011. The company also owns and operates Portland International Raceway in Oregon and IndyCar street courses in St. Petersburg, Fla., and Toronto.
Saturday’s race will air on NBC Sports Network starting at 4:30 p.m., and Sunday’s race will be on NBC4 at 1 p.m.