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Senator Corbin files local bill to increase fans at sports in Western counties 

With 100 counties and 115 school districts in North Carolina, legislators in rural counties are working to increase spectators at sporting events with special legislation. 

Senator Kevin Corbin filed Senate Bill 170 the Students, Parents, Community Rights Act this week, a local bill which allows high school athletics in Alexander, Catawba, Cherokee, Clay, Cleveland, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Lincoln, Macon, and Swain Counties. 

The bill would permit increased access to outdoor sporting facilities in public and nonpublic high schools in the specified counties. 

Governor Roy Cooper updated guidelines in February to allow sporting facilities to accommodate 30 percent of the stadium’s capacity for fans. For spaces without a stated outdoor occupancy, the current order allows no more than seven guests permitted for every 1,00 square feet to ensure social distancing can be accomplished. 

“The truth of the matter is that not all counties and school districts are created equal,” said Senator Kevin Corbin. “What works for our urban counties like Mecklenburg County doesn’t necessarily work out west for Jackson County. This bill recognizes those differences.” 

Senate Bill 170 would require, for the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year, public and nonpublic high schools to set capacity limits for spectators at outdoor sporting events to no more than 50% of the facility’s approved occupancy capacity under the State Building Code. 

For facilities without occupancy capacities under the state Building Code, no more than seven persons for every 1,000 square feet would be allowed. If an outdoor sporting facility allows spectators to bring their own seats, individuals who sit in their own seats would not count toward the limit on the number of spectators if they maintained at least six feet of distance between themselves and anyone outside of their family unit.

For the purposes of  Senate  Bill  170,  “spectators”  would not include athletes, employees of a  public or nonpublic high school, entertainers, or staff providing support for the sporting event. 

The bill also allows local districts to retain control of their individual districts by stating that individual schools,  at the discretion of their governing bodies,  could choose to implement more strict access to outdoor sporting events.

Schools would still be required to comply with nonconflicting portions of the North Carolina Department of  Health and  Human  Services  (NCDHHS)  StrongSchoolsNC  Public  Health  Toolkit  (K-12)  as of February 2, 2021, and Interim Guidance for Administrators and Participants of Youth and Amateur Sports Programs as of January 28, 2021.

With little pushback from colleagues, Senate Bill 170 was filed, sent to committee, and approved to be sent to the Senate Floor for a full vote. 

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