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'It Will Be Emotional': TQL Stadium Hosts First Match At Near Capacity Saturday

Cory Sharber
While state capacity limits have been lifted, some seats won't be available due to MLS COVID-19 regulations.

FC Cincinnati will play their first match at TQL Stadium on Saturday without state capacity limits for fans.

Nearly two-and-a-half years later, the $250 million stadium will be able to bring in nearly 26,000 fans after COVID-19 health orders were lifted in Ohio June 2. Team President Jeff Berding says it will be the first match in almost 18 months played without state capacity limits, going back to their days at Nippert Stadium.

Credit Cory Sharber / WVXU
FC Cincinnati President Jeff Berding addresses the media at TQL Stadium on June 17, 2021.

"This will be an emotional weekend," Berding said. "It'll be a celebration of what we as a club have achieved these past few years together."

The stadium will be at near capacity due to specific COVID-19 regulations put in place by Major League Soccer. Facilities and Stadium General Manager Dan Lolli says the MLS continues to update policies regularly to keep everyone safe at stadiums across the country.

Credit Cory Sharber / WVXU
Facilities and Stadium General Manager Dan Lolli discusses the stadium's clear bag policy during a presser on June 17, 2021.

"There are still some areas around the team benches that we are not allowed to have fans in," Lolli said. "You'll still notice plexiglass around the team benches as well, just some of those much smaller restrictions than what we've seen obviously last year and even for the first two games.

Saturday's match will take place during Juneteenth. Programming, including a singing of the Black National Anthem, will take place, as well as messaging on the videoboards. Two players from both teams will also participate in a ceremony.

The Colorado Rapids will play FC Cincinnati at TQL Stadium at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday. Colorado currently sits at fourth place in the Western Conference. TQL Stadium's East Plaza will open for the first time this season at 4:30 p.m. and all gates will be open by 6 p.m.. All concession stands will be open as well. Fans who show proof of COVID-19 vaccinations will receive 30% of merchandise at the team store.

A clear bag policy is in effect at TQL Stadium. Tickets are digital and all purchases are cashless.

"Pre-Match at the Park" will take place from 4-8 p.m. at Washington Park. Supporters will start marching to the stadium from the park at 6:30 p.m.

Cincinnati played its first match in the stadium May 16, losing 3-2 to Inter Miami CF in front of 6,000 fans. On May 29, FC Cincinnati lost at home to the New England Revolution 1-0.

FC Cincinnati currently sits tied for last in the Eastern Conference with Chicago Fire FC, only gaining four points so far in competition. The two teams also have the least number of points overall in the MLS.

Cory Sharber attended Murray State University majoring in journalism and political science and comes to Cincinnati Public Radio from NPR Member station WKMS.