After Old Glory DC Rugby‘s debut season was shut down by the pandemic, and with the team’s 2021 home opener one month away, co-owner Chris Dunlavey said he “was waiting minute-by-minute with bated breath” to know how many fans he could seat in the stands.
As Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced some coronavirus restrictions would ease come March 1 as infection rates trend downward, Dunlavey was finally able to exhale. Under the revised guidelines, outdoor venues will be able to operate at a capacity of 30% or 1,000 people, up from 250.
“We anticipate being able to open Segra Field to up to 1,000 fans, allowing for effective social distancing in the 5,000 seat venue,” Dunlavey told WTOP.
Old Glory DC’s home opener is March 27 against Atlanta’s Rugby ATL. If the season had started before the loosening of outdoor restrictions, the team would have only have been able to host 250 fans at Segra Field, which is owned by Major League Soccer’s D.C. United.
“That means we will be able to accommodate everyone who has bought Old Glory 2021 season tickets to date, with about another 100 left to sell before we hit that limit,” Dunlavey said.
Major League Rugby Commissioner George Killebrew told WTOP that despite only getting through five of 16 weeks last year, the 12-team league is taking steps to complete its fourth season.
“An easy way would be to say we’ll sit out another year, and hopefully wait for the world to return to some normalcy,” said Killebrew. “But everyone’s dug in on trying to get this season in.”
As the season nears, each team’s attendance limits and COVID-19 protocols are guided by where their home stadiums are located.
“Our team in Toronto, Canada, because of the laws there, are going to relocate for the first part of the season to Atlanta,” said Killebrew. “Our team in San Diego is going to relocate to Las Vegas to try to get their matches in.”
Killebrew and Dunlavey say attendance maximums may be raised in the future.
“We’re hopeful the continued progress against the pandemic will allow us to reach full capacity crowds later in our 2021 season,” Dunlavey said. “It would be fantastic if we could reach the MLR playoffs in July with a full capacity crowd.”