On September 19th, 2020, we got the family together again. New Mexico United played its first “home” match of 2020 at Weidner Field in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Over 800 New Mexico United fans traveled north along I-25 to watch their club in-person for the first time in 2020.
Two weeks prior to the match, the governor's office issued a revised health order, lifting the 14-day quarantine for New Mexicans traveling back into the state from Colorado. This presented the unique opportunity to bring a small portion of the black and yellow family together in a year where gathering in any capacity has been extremely limited in New Mexico.
The United staff worked in collaboration with Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC to create a safe opportunity for up to 1000 supporters to attend their first game in-person since before the start of the pandemic. Going into the event, there were a few key steps that helped ensure success:
New Mexico United worked with Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC to create a stadium seating chart that spaced fans into small family unit groups, providing safe social distancing measures.
The stadium was divided into four quadrants, with fans seated in one quadrant unable to travel to the other three. This measure cut down on additional interaction between attendees.
This match was scheduled for 3:30 PM, in an effort to allow any traveling New Mexican to make a day trip, and avoid overnight hotel stays, if they so chose.
Upon arrival in Colorado Springs, many New Mexican fans began to tailgate in the south lot of Weidner Field, wearing masks (unless eating or drinking,) and maintaining safe social distancing throughout. Like the stadium, the parking lots were divided into four separate sections.
New Mexico United’s supporter’s group, The Curse, made the decision to forgo their traditional “march to the match” in an effort to keep fans properly distanced.
The temperature of every attendee was taken prior to entry into the stadium.
Complimentary hand sanitizer and New Mexico United-branded masks were provided to every attendee at the gate.
The socially distanced seating chart was reinforced in-person. Each seat was clearly marked with either a green check mark or red “x,” to indicate whether seating was permitted.
When not eating or drinking, masks were required for every individual throughout their time at Weidner Field.
Throughout the match, frequent PA announcements reminded fans to keep those masks in place.
New Mexicans practiced self-policing and worked together to keep their community safe. Fans encouraged their fellow supporters to keep masks on throughout the match.
Players and technical staff not involved in on-the-field play wore masks throughout the match.
Once in their seats, fans kept safe social distancing; utilizing only the specifically-marked seats that were sold to them, and largely staying in family units.
New Mexico United and Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC reminded attendees of the importance of mask compliance when they witnessed removal of masks.
Beginning 48 hours after the match, New Mexico United and Medic Buddy Mobile Health - a division of Duke City Urgent Care - began providing COVID testing to any individual who traveled to Colorado Springs for the match. Every single individual who took advantage of offered COVID testing has received a negative test result. The statistics related to those tests are as follows:
0 positive test results for 18 traveling players
0 positive test results for 5 technical staff members
0 positive test results for 18 traveling front office staff members
0 positive test results for 80+ traveling fans
In addition, based upon analysis of the photographs taken of the audience throughout the match, New Mexico United estimates that mask-wearing compliance was around 90%.
If United were able to replicate these efforts within state lines, the club would plan to reimplement what was successful in Colorado Springs; effectively doubling down on our policing of the mandatory mask rule to bring that compliance as close to 100% as possible.