Fans return to stands in Saskatchewan as COVID-19 restrictions lifted

Click to play video: 'Fans return to stands in Saskatchewan as COVID-19 restrictions lifted' Fans return to stands in Saskatchewan as COVID-19 restrictions lifted
Following a 16-month hiatus fans can now return to the stands at live sporting events with little to no restrictions beginning Sunday, July 11 – Jul 11, 2021

Sunday marked the third phase of Saskatchewan’s reopening roadmap, with it lifting restrictions across the province after 16-months of them in place.

For sports fans, that means crowds returning to watch their favourite events live.

Wyant Group Raceway held their first completely open race since 2019 on Sunday, something staff have been preparing for over the duration of the pandemic.

Read more: Saskatchewan lifts all remaining COVID-19 public health restrictions

“To be where we are today has just been a complete roller coaster of a ride,” Wyant Group Raceway Vice President Neil Schneider said.

The loosening restrictions mean fans are no longer being asked to be distanced or masked, something that has made life easier on both organizers and spectators alike.

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“I don’t have to tell anybody, ‘you can’t sit here,'” Schneider said. “Now it’s, ‘come and sit, and enjoy the races.'”

“Everybody felt stressed to get a ticket (last season), and it was very stressful,” racing fan Sophia Banda explained. “It was very lucky if you got a ticket (last season) to come and watch.”

Read more: Outdoor sports return to action in Step 1 of Saskatchewan’s reopening roadmap

Even on the first day of the province being reopened fans came out in droves to take in a day at the track.

“Racing’s not as fun with limited people,” driver Ryley Schneider admitted. “It’s always fun with a packed crowd, always.”

“I’m very excited,” Banda echoed. “Everybody is getting very riled up because it’s the first race day that we’re all opened up.”

At the track, both Ryley and his uncle Neil were doubly excited to experience a regular race day again, both as fans and drivers.

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“(Last season) you didn’t get that roar of excitement that you normally got,” Neil said. “For us, that’s what we race for. It’s not about the dollars and cents, it’s usually for the people on the other side of the fence.”

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“Hearing people cheering and stuff, it always pushes you to do better,” Ryley added.

It won’t be a long wait for local fans to take in their first major indoor sporting event following the provincial reopening.

The Saskatchewan Rattlers host the Edmonton Stingers at Sasktel Centre on Monday night.

“We’re trying to have as few restrictions, and as few distractions as possible,” Rattlers Vice President Brad Kraft said. “So, that it can be, just, totally normal and totally fun for people coming to attend.”

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