Professional Bull Riding to bring fans back to the stands in July

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Professional Bull Riding (PBR) will swing open its gates this summer, offering what it claims will be the first live pro sporting event in the U.S. with fans in attendance since the COVID-19 outbreak.

As many communities across the United States remain on lockdown, PBR said it expects people in the stands at its July 10-12 bucking bull championship competition in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, with the state’s governor offering her endorsement.

“South Dakota is working to get back to normal, and that includes the return of sports at the proper time,” Governor Kristi Noem said.

The five-week competition will feature 48 riders broken into 12 teams, with the first four weeks played to empty venues.

Mobile ticketing, staggered seating and widespread disinfectant will be in place at the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center in Sioux Falls, which plans to operate at 35% capacity for the event.

The competition stands in contrast to much of the sports world, with golf and NASCAR embracing fan-free competitions, as the deadly coronavirus outbreak ravages communities across the United States and the world.

PBR resumed competition last month in Okalhoma in a fan-free setting, with social distancing protocols in place.

“We have added protocols to provide fans a secure place to enjoy a new exciting team format,” PBR Commissioner Sean Gleason said.