The final three days of the state basketball tournament will be played in front of an empty gym, the New Mexico Activities Association announced on Wednesday night.
“It is unfortunate news, but we will be continuing the tournament but we will not have fans in the stands,” NMAA Executive Director Sally Marquez said. “This is coming from the governor’s office and we will abide by that, we are supportive of that.”
The decision comes after four positive cases of the coronavirus COVID-19 were found in New Mexico, including one in Bernalillo County.
In addition to input from the governor, the Departments of Education and Public Health also were involved in the decision-making process.
Each team will be allowed to bring 20 people of their choosing into the arena and the total occupancy at both semifinal sites, The Pit and the Santa Ana Star Center will be capped at 100 people. The four teams that will be on site at any time will take up 80 of the 100 slots, with the rest going to essential personnel such as scorekeepers.
At this time, media will not be allowed inside either venue.
Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham discouraged fans from attending the tournament during her press conference announcing the cases on Wednesday morning, as well as announcing that the Gathering of Nations, scheduled for late April at Expo New Mexico had been canceled.
“As I said at my news conference today, we as a state have to put public health and safety before everything else right now,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement read by Marquez. “We’ve seen the news reports from other states, we’ve seen what other sports leagues are doing and I know New Mexicans will do everything they can to protect themselves and their communities, because we are all in this together.”
COVID-19 was officially labeled as a pandemic earlier in the day by the World Health Organization.
The arena had been undergoing constant cleanings both throughout the day and over night in between sessions, Marquez said staff was cleaning bathrooms and railings throughout the day.
Halftime hurrah, where spirit teams from around the state got to perform at haltime of games has also been canceled. The Los Lunas cheer squad was scheduled to perform tomorrow.
Marquez noted all games will be available to stream on the NFHS Network, which carries a cost of $10.99.
The first game to be played without fans will be the Los Lunas Lady Tigers matchup with Highland in the semifinals at 8 a.m. on Thursday, March 12.
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.