BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. — One hundred people. That will be the fan capacity for both high school football games hosted in Blue Springs on Friday night.
A Jackson County judge declined to issue an injunction allowing the Blue Springs School District to have more than 100 people at the games.
The ruling comes after the district filed a lawsuit against Jackson County Health Department Director Bridgette Shaffer.
The district alleged in the civil suit that high school athletics events that take place outdoors should not be subject to the 100-person mass gathering limit set forth by the county. The district sited Chiefs games and other professional sporting events where over 100 people were in attendance.
The judge in the case, Cory Atkins, denied the injunction, saying the standard for injunctive relief is incredibly high, and he doesn’t think the Blue Springs School District met that standard.
During the hearing, the judge said that the school district didn’t present any expert testimony to support their claim that the 100-fan limit is arbitrary.
The judge also questioned who the attorneys representing the district were representing: the school district or parents.
“I think we do have standing. The letter that was submitted as evidence show that the district has been put on notice of a potential non-compliance issue. That provides us the standing we’re looking for,” said Jason Rew, an attorney representing the Blue Springs School District during the hearing.
The case will now go to trial while the 100-person limit remains in place. It might not be scheduled until late September, which could mean at least two more weeks of football with a 100-person fan capacity.
“I don’t think we should get into the merits. This is still a pending case. There are other phases coming along but we appreciate your time and we’re pleased with the result for today,” said Amy Fitts, an attorney representing the Johnson County Health Department.
As of Friday afternoon, FOX4 was still awaiting official confirmation from the district on how they were planning to handle ticketing for Friday night’s games.
Blue Springs Superintendent Paul Kinder told FOX4 that he was expecting a lot of extremely upset parents at Friday night’s football games against Staley and Park Hill high schools.
He said the district has a backup plan in place for dealing with the game and implementing the 100-person fan capacity.
Rob Regier, a parent attending the hearing, said he feels frustrated.
“Blue Springs South had two games the last two weeks in Lee’s Summit where they had the 100-person capacity policy, and it was very frustrating as a visiting team parent not to be able to go watch. This is our first week to be able to go and finally watch our sons play,” Regier said.
The district’s lawsuit pointed out that Arrowhead Stadium is operating with 20-percent capacity and some 15-thousand fans attended the Thursday night home opener.
An attorney representing the Jackson County Health Department argued that Arrowhead Stadium falls within the jurisdiction of the Kansas City Health Department, not Jackson County.
“Well I think it’s up to the parents to decide if that’s a big deal or not. I’m a parent and I do feel that to be a big deal if I can’t watch safely my children participate in a sport. We’re not asking for a lot. As you heard in the evidence we’re asking for 550 people to attend a football game at a stadium that holds outdoors 5,000 people,” Rew said.
After the ruling, Jackson County Executive Frank White issued a statement saying he hopes that the ruling will put an end to the issue.
“We respect and appreciate the Court’s denial of the Blue Springs School District’s request for temporary restraining order. While we are pleased with the outcome, it is important to remember that today’s hearing did not come without costs.
“The school district’s decision to sue the County’s health department meant that a considerable amount of time, energy and taxpayer dollars had to be diverted from addressing the COVID-19 pandemic in Jackson County. We are hopeful that today’s ruling will put an end to this issue and our public health professionals can get back to focusing on keeping our community safe and healthy.”