(CBS Local)- The Super Bowl is now just two weeks away and we finally have an answer to whether or not fans will be allowed to attend the game. The NFL announced on Friday, January 22 that 22,000 fans will be able to attend the big game this year at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.
The game, featuring a matchup between two of the league's best quarterbacks in Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes, will not see the same sold out atmosphere as in year's past due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But, the league is making sure to honor and celebrate health care heroes at the game, inviting 7,500 vaccinated health care workers to the game with all expense paid trips.
"It started to build that there was an opportunity and a plan. And to your point in the intro, it was really about two things. It was about thanking and celebrating and honoring and giving, hopefully a bit of joy to these individuals who have saved so many lives and been on the front lines," said Peter O'Reilly, Executive Vice President of Club Business and League Events for the NFL in an interview with CBS Local's Ryan Mayer. "While also educating and advocating for the efficacy of the vaccine. There are few platforms as large as the Super Bowl on which one can do that. That was part of our conversation as well. Being able to build a plan for 7,500 over the last month is something we're proud of and excited to bring that experience to these heroes."
In addition to the 7,500 health care workers, there will be another 14,500 fans in paid attendance at the game. O'Reilly said that the number was arrived at after close consultation with league, national and local public health officials. The 22,000 figure represents about a third of Raymond James Stadium's full capacity.
The fans that are in attendance at the game will have to adhere to the league's strict guidelines for in-person attendance. That includes mandatory mask-wearing and social distancing along with seating pods and various other health and safety protocols. O'Reilly said the league further stepped up its protocols for the Super Bowl and is planning on issuing every fan in attendance a KN-95 mask or similarly effective masks.
The game will also see a first as Raymond James Stadium is the home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who are the NFC's representatives in this year's game. The Bucs become the first team in league history to play in the Super Bowl in the year in which their stadium is hosting it.
Super Bowl LV is set for Sunday, February 7 with kickoff slated for 6:30 p.m. EST on CBS
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