Health restrictions due to COVID-19 will alter the location of Utah’s high school volleyball state tournaments, which are scheduled for late October and early November.
And, changes have already been made to cross country championships and new venues are being discussed for football.
According to Utah High School Activities Association assistant director Jon Oglesby, Utah Valley University informed the UHSAA earlier this month that the UCCU Center in Orem, which has hosted the state volleyball tournament for years, wouldn’t host this year’s tournament due to the COVID-19 pandemic and associated public health restrictions.
UVU spokesperson Scott Trotter deferred comment to athletics spokesperson Clint Burgi, who didn’t return a request for comment by publication time.
Oglesby said the UHSAA is looking at several proposals for alternate venues, and an alternate tournament location could be decided as soon as Sept. 30 during a regularly scheduled UHSAA executive committee meeting.
According to a document distributed to executive committee members this week, the options the UHSAA is looking at are neutral high school sites, the Sevier Valley Center in Richfield, Dixie State University in St. George, and potentially Salt Lake Community College.
The document indicates high school sites could host two courts — one in the main gym and another in an auxiliary gym — the Sevier Valley Center could have two or four courts playing at one time, Dixie State three and SLCC one.
There’s also the possibility that different classifications’ tournaments are held at different locations, or that matchups beyond the first round will be played at high school sites, meaning less rounds at a central location.
The volleyball development isn’t too shocking. The state had recently told volleyball coaches not to book hotel rooms in Orem, a sizable economic event in the city each year, and that more information would come about the tournament as soon as possible.
Tuesday’s announcement from the governor moving Orem and Provo back into the orange restriction level also means sporting events in those cities could continue, but only without fans, which would have a financial effect on the UHSAA.
In years past, nearly all state tournament matches have been played at one single location — normally UVU — with last year being a recent exception.
The first round of the state tournament for the 1A-4A classifications is scheduled for Oct. 24 at home sites, with those classifications contesting the rest of the state tournament from Oct. 27-30.
First-round games in 6A and 5A are scheduled for Nov. 3 at home sites, with the remainder of the state tournament going from Nov. 5-7.
CROSS COUNTRYHealth restrictions have already necessitated splitting the cross country state meets from a combined site of Sugar House Park and Highland High School in Salt Lake City to two sites, Oglesby said.
The 4A, 2A and 1A state races will be Oct. 21 at Cedar High School in Cedar City. The 6A, 5A and 3A races will be in Midway in Wasatch County, right near Solider Hollow.
Salt Lake City is in the “yellow” risk phase of COVID-19 restrictions. According to the city’s website, events can have up to 6,000 fans as long as physical distancing is maintained, but that’s difficult to accomplish at any cross country race, let alone the state meet.
But as of now, high school sporting events are not allowed to have spectators in Salt Lake City limits.
According to RunnerCard, a cross country/track and field race and results website, last year’s six cross country state races featured 1,341 runners to go with an unknown number of coaches, spectators, event personnel, media and other people in attendance.
Typically at cross country state races, spectators pack together along the border of the course to cheer as the runners pass through.
Health guidelines have stressed digital ticketing options for event holders to provide data on every attendee should the health department need to contact someone during contact tracing.
Sugar House Park doesn’t have the capability to limit the flow of spectators in such a fashion where tickets could be scanned. Online tickets will be required at the Soldier Hollow race, but not Cedar High, according to the UHSAA website.
FOOTBALLThe UHSAA is also exploring its options regarding the state football semifinals and finals, typically held at the University of Utah for the 6A-4A classifications and various other venues for 3A and 2A. The association has asked regions and schools for ideas on alternate venues.
Oglesby didn’t specifically confirm whether the UHSAA is looking at alternate venues, but said everything’s on the table for all sports regarding venue changes in general.
According to a document distributed to UHSAA Executive Committee members this week, the UHSAA is looking at the University of Utah, Weber State, Southern Utah University, Dixie State, neutral sites at high schools, and Rio Tinto Stadium (championship games only, no semifinals) as possible locations for 6A and 5A semifinals and finals.
It’s unclear whether these are the same options for the 4A, 3A and 2A semis/finals, which as of Thursday will be held at a to-be-determined location.
The document indicates that zero spectators would be allowed at the U and Weber State. No decision has yet been made at Weber State about if games could be held there or under what conditions, according to event and sports facilities director Crystal Taylor.
“We will work with the Utah High School Activities Association to determine what is best for the university and the community in the context of both health department and campus guidelines,” Taylor said.
Currently, WSU is in the low risk, or “yellow,” phase where, according to its facilities guidelines, events with 50 or less people are allowed if organizational oversight with health protocols can be achieved.
Those same guidelines include bullet points such as, “there will be no third party hosted events on campus for Fall Semester,” as well as, “events should significantly serve the university mission, and the primary audience should be students, faculty or staff.”
University of Utah spokesperson Christopher Nelson didn’t answer specific questions about whether fans would be allowed at high school football games at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
However, the University of Utah’s guidance for event planning, which covers Rice-Eccles Stadium, recommends non-essential gatherings of 20 or more people should be canceled or postponed while the university is in a “moderate,” or “orange,” level of restriction.
In-person gatherings at the U with more than 20 people in the orange level need approval from the vice presidential level at the university.
The document distributed to the executive committee indicates 6,000 fans would be allowed at SUU and DSU, a 25% capacity for neutral sites at high schools, and 4,000 fans for Rio Tinto.
DSU athletics spokesperson Steve Johnson said via email there have been discussions between the school and UHSAA about hosting football, but nothing formal has been decided.
Neutral sites at high schools would likely not include locations in Salt Lake City, Orem or Provo, given the current ban on spectators at events in those cities.
Rio Tinto’s use would be contingent on whether Real Salt Lake hosts playoff games and that won’t be known for weeks.
As of now, girls soccer state tournaments have not changed venues.