BOZEMAN -- On the eve of the first Class AA football game in Bozeman Gallatin High School's history, School District 7 in Bozeman will allow two athletes per visiting participant beginning with Friday night's football game between Gallatin and Great Falls High. Belgrade confirmed it would be doing the same.
The Bozeman Daily Chronicle first reported the Bozeman news.
A few hours later, MTN Sports first reported that Belgrade would follow suit of Bozeman.
The news came hours after School District 2 in Billings announced it was reversing its previous ruling prohibiting visiting fans from attending high school sporting events. That announcement came as Billings Senior was set to host Bozeman in the first Class AA football game of the year.
That decision sparked conversation in Gallatin Valley, according to Bozeman and Gallatin director of athletics Mark Ator.
"(Billings athletic director) Mark Wahl and I were visiting (Thursday morning), and a lot of Bozeman fans were going to Billings, and the same thing was going to be happening in Bozeman soon -- people piling up at the fence line outside the stadium, and that didn't make sense," said Ator. "We both wanted parents to be able to see their kids play, so we talked about it, and (Thursday) morning the Billings administration decided to allow it, so then I met with our superintendent and he visited with our county health, which stuck to the recommendation of only allowing two fans per home participant. But we agreed to it (Thursday) afternoon."
Ator, who is a sports parent himself, said the decision is a win for those parents wanting to be in attendance of their children's activities, but he also said it's up to them to make sure the decision continues to be allowed.
"We’re going to ask them to sit in their family unit, social distance, wear a mask and police themselves," he said. "That’s the key to allow us to continue to do it."
"The Bozeman Hawks have a team with 30 seniors, they're the defending state champions, it was just hard for parents to go watch," he continued. "Same thing when teams are coming to Bozeman for games. Parents were upset, and I understood. As long as people will agree to social distance, wear masks when necessary, I think it will work. I’m sure it will."
Gallatin's football program will be the first to compete under the new spectator policy, when the Raptors welcome Great Falls High in each team's opener on Friday at 7 p.m. Gallatin then hosts Belgrade in a soccer doubleheader on Saturday morning. The Raptors' volleyball team plays host to Billings West Saturday afternoon, while Bozeman welcomes Billings Skyview across town.
Belgrade, meanwhile, plans to use the system it already has in place for home fans.
“Our conference alone, we’re going to allow people, some of our spectators to go and that’s two per dressed-out athlete," said first-year Belgrade activities director Toby Robinson. "We have a ticket system in place and that ticket system is actually already in place, we’ve been using it for soccer. Our spectators do understand how that works. When they go to these places they have to show their tickets, get marked off on the roster, and for each athlete that’s out there playing or participating they get two spectators.”
“We’re pretty happy with that," Robinson added. "That just shows that we’re improving with the coronavirus, we’re improving with that and we’re re-lifting a little bit of restrictions here and there.”