KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Last year the Big 12 Championships were canceled because of COVID-19 concerns. This year, the show will go on, but it looks a lot different.
After a series of “Disney on Ice” shows were abruptly cut short, this is one of the first times crowds have been allowed inside the T-Mobile Center since the pandemic began.
College basketball fans have traveled from near and far to cheer on their favorite teams in the Big 12 tournaments in downtown Kansas City. But this year, fan capacity is limited inside T-Mobile Center, FanFest is out, and there won’t be any pep rallies at Power & Light.
“It’s very calm compared to any Big 12 Tournament I’ve been to, so it’s pretty disappointing. But it is nice people are getting in the facility, so we’re making strides I guess,” said Jim Zimmerman from Leavenworth.
But only a little less than 4,000 fans will be allowed inside to watch games. Big 12 fans are glad that number isn’t zero.
“Everything got canceled last year, and so we were all pretty bummed out and didn’t even get to watch the Big 12 tournament. So now being able to come back here for the first night and being able to watch the Cats play is pretty special for us,” Evan Rice from Manhattan, Kansas, said.
Many fans remember the disappointment from last year. After one day of games, fans heard the announcement that the tournament would be canceled.
“We were in the game, and they said initially said it was just going to be the parents for the Thursday game,” Iowa State fan Mike Bearden said. “Then they canceled the whole tournament, and they canceled the whole NCAA and that was kind of devastating.”
This year, fans have to wear masks inside T-Mobile Center and everyone will be seated in pods.
“I think it’s just going to be a different atmosphere and a lot quieter I guess,” Kansas State fan Justin McCullick said.
Even with all the changes, some said it’s just important for these athletes to be able to play.
“Student athletes work hard all year long, and this is their celebration, and the Big 12 tournament is a celebration,” Oklahoma State fan Kayla Hammer said. “We celebrate all the teams, this whole atmosphere, everybody wears their colors, everybody supports their teams, and it’s a good thing, and a great step forward, and we just gotta keep going forward.”