KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The University of Tennessee, the city and Knoxville Area Transit have adopted new COVID-19 protocols that will change how Vols fans experience home football games this fall.
Specifically, these changes will be affecting the Vol Navy, tailgating and KAT buses.
The university has already prohibited large tailgate parties on campus, and there will be no university-sponsored tailgates either.
Now, safety precautions are being extended to city-owned facilities as well.
The Vol Navy will look different this season as it will be limited to boats stacked two deep at the Volunteer Landing and Vol Navy docks, which are owned by the city.
During a typical home game, boaters tie off from each other in extended rows, and fans socialize in close quarters walking from boat to boat, according to city officials.
“As the Knox County Health Department has reported, social gatherings of family and friends have been a leading culprit in the spread of COVID-19. The limit in stacking of boats at City docks is aimed at minimizing the spread of the virus as much as possible by reducing the number of people congregated at the docks.”City of Knoxville
With this change, boaters will be docking on a first-come, first-served basis.
However, the city is asking that boaters not moor at the public docks for more than 24 hours, since the docks are intended for transient boaters and not for long-term docking.
Dos and don’ts
- Be considerate of boaters already moored at the docks. Ask permission to tie off or cross another boat to get to the dock.
- Wear a face covering if you enter another person’s boat. When physical distancing is not possible, wear a face covering, even outdoors.
- If you do not have a ticket to the football game, please do not moor at a City dock on Game Day. With reduced capacity, please leave the docks available to fans attending the game.
- Move your boat after each game so that the docks are accessible to other boaters during the week.
- If you are concerned about strangers wearing face coverings crossing your vessel to access the dock, please consider beforehand whether you are comfortable bringing your boat to the game.
TWRA will be monitoring activities at the docks.
The city also says that there will be no tailgating allowed in any city-owned parking garages or surface lots.
Parking rates will remain the same as last season which ranges from $10 to $40.
With Knoxville Area Transit buses already running at no more than 50% capacity, KAT will not be providing game-day shuttles this season.
What Vol Navy boaters think about the changes
Drew Jeske-Polyak, organizer of volnavyboaters.com, said he understood the guidelines and had no issues with them.
Jeske-Polyak said he was actually surprised the city was allowing boats to dock at all on game days. He believes leaders made an educated guess based on safety, and safety is what most boaters pride themselves on.
Jeske-Polyak believes the traditions aren’t gone forever; they are simply put on hold until next season.
However, Vol Navy boater Lee Lewis wishes the city would’ve left the boaters alone. Lewis has been watching the UT games from his yacht for 15 years.
Lewis said he won’t be able to enjoy his game day traditions because boaters going to the game are the only fans allowed to dock this year at Vol Landing.
“Never been to the stadium in 15 years. We always have a party on the boat, watch it on the five TVs that we got and we just have the party there. You know, we know when they score because we always hear the fireworks before they show it on the TV, so you know, it’s kind of neat to do that,” Lewis said.
He said with all the new guidelines, such as 25% capacity in the stadium, no tailgating on campus or in city lots and less boats docked, there’s almost no point to have a party.
“No tailgating virtually anywhere, yeah it kind of dampens the entire mood, the entire spirit because you know, it is Vol Nation. I mean, we’re out here to support the game, support the team, hopefully let them bring a win in and it kind of just lets the air out of the balloon so to speak,” Lewis said.
Lewis said he might have a few people on his boat in the bay during games, but he won’t be joining others on the dock until next season.