USA Hockey's National Team Development Program (17U) vs. Johnstown Tomahawks

Joey Snyder, of Punxsutawney, Pa., dances to The Isley Brother's "Shout!" during a break in action as the Johnstown Tomahawks take on the USA Hockey's National Team Development Program (17U) at 1st Summit Arena @ Cambria County War Memorial on Sunday, October 4, 2020.

Mike Hogan welcomed news of Gov. Tom Wolf increasing gathering-size limits for events across the state on Tuesday.

The coach of the two-time defending state champion Northern Cambria High School girls volleyball team is pleased that parents once again will be able to attend their daughters’ games.

“It’s really nice that the parents now can make plans, make arrangements, set their schedule and – for crying out loud – go watch their kid play volleyball,” Hogan said. “It’s nice to have that locked in for hopefully a couple more weeks.”

Previous Wolf guidelines limited gatherings to 25 people indoors and 250 outdoors due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The total of 25 at volleyball matches included players, coaches and officials – which left no room for spectators.

Parents and a few other fans received a reprieve for a match or two after a federal judge ruling that tossed statewide pandemic limits on crowd size late last month, but Wolf appealed that decision and the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court granted him a stay last week, putting the 25/250 limits back into play.

Tuesday’s amended guidelines state that indoor events are limited to 10% to 20% capacity, depending on the venue’s size. Outdoor events may permit 15% to 25% of capacity.

Indoor facilities with a maximum of up to 2,000 people now may have 20% of the maximum occupancy. Indoor venues holding 2,001 to 10,000 capacity may have 15% of maximum occupancy. More than 10,000-seat indoor venues may have 10% of maximum occupancy up to 3,750 people.

Outdoor facilities with a maximum of up to 2,000 people may have 25% of maximum occupancy; 2,001 to 10,000-seat venues may have up to 20% maximum occupancy outdoors; and outdoor venues over 10,000 capacity may have a 15% of maximum occupancy, up to 7,500 people. 

War Memorial impact

At 1st Summit Arena @ Cambria County War Memorial, that means about 1,000 people at events, Cambria County Director of Emergency Management Art Martynuska said.

“I’m looking at overcall capacity, which is around 6,700,” Martynuska said. “Times 15% gives you a little over 1,000.”

The Johnstown Tomahawks begin their ninth North American Hockey League season on the road this weekend, but will hold their home opener on Oct. 16.

Jean Desrochers, facilities manager at 1st Summit Arena, said the arena and the hockey team “are working with the county” as far as the new guidelines. Desrochers said social distancing seating will be used at games and masks will be required in the arena.

Martynuska said Wolf’s updated numbers are a positive development in an ongoing process. In August, Martynuska said the county had been working with Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and took guidance from the agency on how best to adhere to Wolf’s restrictions and any changes to those guidelines.

“The initial direction that we got several weeks ago didn’t have definitive numbers,” Martynuska said. “They left it up to your own devices to do seating charts and things of that nature.

"I think it’s good to have a definitive number. We may not like that number initially, but it’s good to have a definitive number that you could have some substance to and you can work with.” 

Fire code as yardstick

Richland High School Athletic Director Bonnie Kidd said the Rams sports teams will adapt to the new numbers. Kidd said she is waiting for the official capacity numbers at Herlinger Field, where the football and soccer teams play, and at the Sports Center gymnasium, where volleyball is played.

Wolf’s amended order states: “Venues hosting events or gatherings must determine their established occupancy limit as defined by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Life Safety Code and then apply the attendee calculator to determine how many attendees are permitted to attend the event or gathering.”

Kidd wanted to make sure the NFPA numbers are the same as the traditional maximum attendance at athletic events at the two sites.

Similarly, Desrochers said the arena staff will meet with the Johnstown Fire Department to get the official number based on Wolf’s language.

“We’re looking at our numbers because the governor said something about fire limits,” Richland’s Kidd said. “We don’t know what that is, compared to what our actual occupancy is. We would be at 20% of our capacity both indoors and outdoors based on our seating.”

New guidelines 'helpful'

Kidd appreciates the opportunity to have more people watch the student-athletes play.

“I’m grateful to finally have something more sensible than an arbitrary number,” Kidd said. “That is helpful.”

Hogan said the additional fans who were able to attend games last week made an impact.

“When (Gov. Wolf’s) court order was put on hold, we were allowed to finally have our parents come in and watch us play,” Hogan said. “The first game that parents were allowed to come in, all the kids were like, ‘Oh, gosh. Look at that.’

“It was a pleasant surprise. There was actually some noise, some parents, some energy in the gym. It meant a lot to the kids to have the parents and a couple students in there watching the game. Then it got shut back down again, and now it got re-opened up again.”

Mike Mastovich is a sports reporter and columnist for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5083. Follow him on Twitter @Masty81.

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