North Texas is hoping to get back to normal this fall when it comes to its athletics program, and that includes packing the stands at Apogee Stadium for football season.
The school is planning to open the venue at full capacity.
UNT limited capacity to 25% in the bowl of the stadium and 50% in the club and suite levels last season in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re anticipating being 100% and everything operating like it did pre-pandemic,” UNT athletic director Wren Baker told the Denton Record-Chronicle this week. “That’s going to be our plan unless we’re told something different. Right now, when you look at COVID numbers nationally and specifically here in Texas, it looks like things are headed to a good place.”
Capacity restrictions last season cut seating at Apogee down to about 8,000. The venue seats 30,850.
UNT has yet to formally announce its seating plans for the upcoming season.
The school had about 6,000 seats available in the bowl of the stadium in 2020, when the school reserved 3,000 seats for students.
UNT averaged 6,915 fans at six home games. The school drew 21,358 fans for six home games in 2019, when it sold 7,885 season tickets through all avenues including corporate sponsorships.
“I’m absolutely coming back,” said Steve Boedeker, a longtime season ticket holder. “I went to games last fall. I believe a lot of fans have missed the entertainment and camaraderie of going to games. I believe we will see a bump over 2019 because people are itching to get out and do something normal.”
UNT has six home games on its slate this fall, including its season opener against Northwestern State on Sept. 4.
The Mean Green are also slated to host Liberty on Oct. 23 in what could be their highest profile game of the season. The Flames finished 10-1 last season and are expected to be one of the top teams on the Group of Five level.
UNT finished 4-6 last season after falling to Appalachian State in the Myrtle Beach Bowl. The Mean Green have played in bowl games in four of coach Seth Littrell’s five seasons and return several of their key players, including defensive tackle Dion Novil.
Novil was a first-team All-Conference USA selection last season.
UNT is planning on returning to normal when it comes to the atmosphere at Apogee for Novil’s final season with the Mean Green.
UNT officials are confident fans will return to Apogee now that COVID-19 vaccines are available and cases are declining.
“Up until a month ago, I really didn’t know and was really concerned that behavior would permanently change,” Baker said. “What most of my colleagues are seeing and what we’re seeing here very early in our cycle is there’s pent up demand. I do think we’re going to very quickly get back to normal.”