The Coopers Social Distancing

The Coopers, a Louisville City FC supporter section, practiced social distancing during the club's inaugural game in Lynn Family Stadium.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Louisville's sports teams have spent nearly a year playing to mostly empty stadiums and arenas, the COVID-19 pandemic dampening gameday atmosphere and revenue.

But Gov. Andy Beshear announced Monday that he's increased maximum capacity from 40% to 50% at venues that seat more than 1,000. That means there will be nearly 8,000 screaming fans for Saturday's Louisville City FC home opener at Lynn Family Stadium.

“We're excited about it," aid Jonathan Lintner, Louisville City’s vice president of communications. "We feel like we're ready for it."

Lynn Family Stadium seats just more than 15,000 people. The capacity increase adds up to about 1,500 more fans. meaning more Louisville City FC season ticket holders will actually be able to get into the stadium.

“We get a few more people in here who have basically been on a waiting list wanting to come and experience a game,” Lintner said.

Beshear said he decided to increase the crowd size for large venues because they have proven they can hold events safely.

“We have seen very little spread through them,” Beshear said. “In fact, we've seen some of the best adherence to masking at them.”

ASM Global-Louisville operates Lynn Family Stadium, the KFC YUM! Center, and the Norton Sports and Learning Complex. In a statement, General Manager Eric Granger said:

“We are reviewing the new executive order but are pleased that the Governor has recognized our enforcement of protocols. We look forward to the capacity continuing to increase so we can offer even more events and memorable experiences for our guests.”

Lintner said Louisville City will continue to enforce masking, social distancing and sanitation rules.

“All the same protocols we were following last year will still be in place," he said. "We'll just have a few more people in the venue."

Jefferson County Public Schools plans to hold graduation ceremonies at outdoor stadiums. Superintendent Marty Pollio said JCPS will not move to increase capacity until it hears from the Kentucky Department of Education.

“If they change their guidance, we will adjust," he said. "But that this time, we're not changing."

The capacity increase also applies to large entertainment venues, but neither the Louisville Palace Theater nor Iroquois Amphitheater responded to requests for comment.

But Louisville City said it is looking forward to even more of a home field advantage.

“The fans are super-passionate. It's like college football on steroids, honestly,” Lintner said. “I can't wait to see what sort of advantage that it gives our team once they can play in front of larger crowds.”

Beshear said he will “look at” raising capacity even more after 2.5 million Kentuckians are vaccinated for COVID-19.

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