LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — Adjusting game day practices in the COVID-19 era of sports is not an easy task for local business owners or fans.
Purdue's Ross-Ade stadium will be closed to the public for the entirety of the 2020 season. Tailgating will not be permitted either. The Purdue faithful will have to find new traditions to watch the Boilers play.
At Lafayette's DT Kirby's Downtown bar, outdoor seating, required face coverings, and reduced attendance will persist during the college football season. The bar's owner, Don Kirby, knows the importance of complying with Tippecanoe County health department regulations.
"Do I like it? The answer is absolutely, positively no," said Kirby. "But is it the right thing to do? The answer is yes. DT Kirby's is not breaking the [health department's] rules and that's the bottom line."
Kirby will expand outdoor seating onto Main Street for gameday, something the bar has already been doing for Lafayette's Fresh Air Eats event each weekend.
"[Fresh Air Eats] helps us out, we pick up another 22-25 seats," said Kirby. "People can grab [food] and find a spot and then come in when its their turn."
Watching the game in a bar in a bar is different than being inside of a stadium. No one knows that better than 14-year season ticket holder Elmo Robledo. He's been going to home games for over a decade with his wife. That will change on Saturday, when the couple will stake out a spot at DT Kirby's.
"With the protocols they have in place, and the social distancing, I absoultely feel safe here," said Robledo.
As WLFI previously reported, tailgating will have to be done off-campus. Parking lots will be blocked off by campus police. That changes the Vorst family's plan to tailgate with their RV; a gameday tradition that has lasted the last 10 consecutive years.
Brian Vorst says he will miss that gameday tradition with his wife and their three kids.
"It's definintely that feeling that you're gonna miss out," said Vorst. "With our kids, you only get so many opportunities to do this and they're gonna be gone."
One of Vorst's daughters, Kierstin, is a junior at Purdue. She said that tailgating with her family was a time to bond, even when she was busy with classes.
"It was a time during the week that I got to see all of my family," siad Kierstin. "I don't think all of us really realize how much we're gonna miss [tailgating] until the first game happens."
Purdue will open its season at home on Saturday against Iowa at 3:30pm.