At the start of this year's NFL season, no one was sure what was in store for Super Bowl LV.
Now, the NFL has officially announced its decision on the seating capacity for the 2021 championship matchup. 22,000 fans will be allowed to attend the big game in Tampa Bay's Raymond James Stadium. As a nod to the tireless work done on the front lines, 7,500 of those tickets will be gifted to vaccinated health care workers free of charge.
ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter shared the news on Twitter Friday morning.
According to a press release from the NFL, this decision came with some significant deliberation between public health officials, CDC and the Florida Department of Health. With a limited capacity, both the league and Florida health officials feel confident the game can go on in a "safe and responsible" way.
Though 22,000 may seem excessive in the middle of a global pandemic, the NFL did show some restraint. Back in October, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that all stadiums could go back to full capacity. Despite this ruling Miami, Jacksonville and Tampa Bay all chose to limit capacity through the season -- allowing about 25% percent of fans into their regular season games.
When DeSantis made this controversial decision, the Super Bowl was clearly already on his mind.
"We're going to be able to host the Super Bowl in February. We expect to do a full Super Bowl," DeSantis said, according to 24/7 Sports. "We're going to show that we're going to be able to do that."
With COVID-19 cases on the rise, that dream of a packed house is far from feasible.
It really is too bad, especially with the rare opportunity to have the home team make an appearance. If Tampa Bay can take down Green Bay on Sunday the Bucs would become the first team ever to play a Super Bowl at home.
The winner of that NFC Championship matchup will face off against either Buffalo or Kansas City on Sunday, Feb. 7.