EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) – The stage is set as all eyes turn to Ford Center For this year’s Ohio Valley Conference Basketball Tournament.
The tournament starts Wednesday and it was this time last year the event symbolized one last shot at normalcy in Evansville before the pandemic hit.
Officials say they are hopeful this will be the turnaround in the pandemic and they say it will set the tone for future events.
“All eyes are going to be on Evansville this week as this is the first conference tournament out of the gate,” said Evansville Sports Corp. Executive Director Eric Marvin. “We are going to be watched and people are going to be observing how successful we are in hosting this event in a safe manner.”
Officials say big changes are coming to one of the biggest sporting events in Evansville.
“Teams when they are here they are essentially going to be isolated in their hotels and the arena,” Marvin said. “They are not going to be out and about in the community this year.”
OVC officials say they have worked with the Mayor’s Reopen Evansville Task Force and Vanderburgh County Health Officials.
All teams had to test negative for COVID-19 before arriving in Evansville – and they will continue to be tested each day of the competition by Deaconess Hospital along with assistance from the Vanderburgh County Health Department.
“There’s really good protocols in place to ensure the safety of all that are attending these championships,” Marvin said.
Ford center will be open at 25% capacity meaning only about 2,000 of the roughly 10,000 seats will be filled.
Fans will have their temperature checked and required to wear a face covering at all times while families will be seated together in socially-distanced pods.
Local health officials say with the declining case numbers, public events will slowly return to normal everyday life.
“I think people continue to wear their masks and social distance while we are getting vaccines in patients arms, I think it’s all working together to drive these numbers down,” said Deaconess Clinic Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brad Scheu. “I just think it’s really encouraging, but we are not done yet, so we need to keep it up.”
More information on this year’s OVC Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championship can be found at www.OVCSports.com/Evansville.
(This story was originally published on March 1, 2021)