Here's what's being done to keep fans safe at 2021 SEC Tournament in Bridgestone Arena

Drake Hills
Nashville Tennessean

The SEC Tournament is set to begin Wednesday at Bridgestone Arena. But it has taken 12 months of planning for a touchless, stringent and innovative experience to address COVID-19 concerns and assure tournament completion. 

The COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 forced the SEC to halt the men's basketball tournament at Bridgestone Arena after only playing the first round. On Monday, representatives from the SEC, Metro Public Health and the Nashville Predators, who call Bridgestone Arena home, offered protocols and technology installed throughout the arena for competition.

Tickets for the tournament are sold out, distributed to each member school, according to Lonnie Wilkerson, senior director of ticket operations at Bridgestone Arena. The fan capacity for each game is capped at 20%.

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Masks are required and mobile tickets are required. Fan parties of up to six will be seated together, but will collectively sit at least six feet apart from other parties.

Here is everything you need to know about attending the tournament:

For fans: ticketing, concessions, seats

Predators vice president of events David Chadwell said arena doors will open one hour before each game. Bridgestone Arena is disallowing bags for fans,  unless required  for medical reasons or parental needs.

Fans must log on to the SEC account manager website prior to arrival at the arena to download their tickets. Wilkerson encouraged fans to store their virtual tickets in their mobile apps. 

Chadwell said although masks are required, fans are permitted to remove them when consuming food or beverages. However, those items may only be consumed at a ticketed seat. Bridgestone Arena has implemented a COVID-19 protocol report line, at 615-502-4848, to anonymously report violators.

Dave Urso, Predators senior vice president of operations, said Bridgestone Arena will be cashless for the SEC Tournament. Concessions can be purchased via mobile payment or credit card in advance. Fans will be offered reverse ATM machines, taking cash and providing fans a VISA credit card.

Following each game, spectators for each game will exit the arena by section. The even-numbered sections will depart before the odd sections.

Protocols for the teams

Byron Hatch, SEC assistant commissioner of championships, said each participating school will be limited to 34 travelling delegates for the tournament, including players and coaches, which is in unison with the NCAA's ruling for the NCAA Tournament in Indianapolis.

All team representatives will undergo COVID-19 testing. It began Sunday on each campus and will continue daily at each team hotel until a team's first game. Testing will resume for each team after each game they play.

Teams must will practice at Bridgestone Arena or at Vanderbilt's Memorial Gym. At the arena, teams will be issued an additional room, along with their locker room. The team room can be used at the respective program's discretion. 

For sports stories in Middle Tennessee, contact Drake Hills at DHills@gannett.com. Follow Drake on Twitter at @LiveLifeDrake.