Navigating the new COVID-19 requirements for U of I sports, large events

Local News

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been updated to clarify that rapid tests administered by a healthcare professional will be accepted.

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA)– If you’re headed to the State Farm Center for the Fighting Illini men’s basketball game Thursday, you’ll need to bring more than just a ticket.

For the first time admission also requires proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test, and without one of those, you will be turned away without a refund.

Kent Brown, the athletics director for media relations for the University of Illinois, said ticket sales were approaching a sold-out crowd Wednesday afternoon.

“We’re expecting a big crowd. You know, it’s an important Big Ten game,” Brown added.

But there may be a learning curve for those waiting to get into the arena while each and every fan pulls out proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test that was taken no more than three days ago.

“It’s going to be cold Thursday night, so a high of 13 [degrees] during the day, which we certainly understand that and do not want people standing outside any longer than they have to,” Brown said.

“We will be as efficient as possible to get people through.”

You can bring a picture of your vaccine card and leave the real thing at home, according to Brown, whether it’s on your phone or a physical photocopy.

Doors will open a half-hour earlier than usual at 4:30 p.m.

“[The] 6 p.m. start doesn’t help anything this week with this first time going through this, so certainly we’re asking people to be patient, be understanding,” Brown said, adding, be prepared with your ID for verification as well.

The new requirement is a game-changer for at least one family of fans to be able to get back to watching the game they love in person.

The Ochoa family is returning to the State Farm Center for the first time since the pandemic began.

“Mostly, in part due to the new COVID[-19] protocols,” shared father and U of I alumnus Jose Ochoa.

“I know a couple of players. Yeah, I’m a fan,” added his son, Johan Ochoa.

“I mean it’s all for the safety of our family,” Jose Ochoa concluded. “Otherwise we wouldn’t be going.”

Starting with this game, the new requirement will apply to all U of I events with more than 200 people.

If you’re planning on showing a negative test result to get in, Shield, PCR and rapid tests administered by a healthcare professional will be accepted. At-home COVID-19 tests will not be accepted.

A booster shot is not required for entry at this point, according to Brown, but health officials continue to encourage everyone who can get that extra protection to do so.

The university also recently launched the “Illinois App” for students, faculty and staff. You can upload your vaccination card to it, and by scanning a QR code at coronavirus test sites, it keeps track of your results.

If you’re in the clear, the app will give you a checkmark, meaning your access is granted for buildings on campus.

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.