Spectators allowed at Big 10 Tournament downtown

Photo of Bankers Life Fieldhouse ahead of the Men's Big 10 Tournament on March 11, 2020. (WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Local leaders and the NCAA announced fans will be allowed to pack Bankers Life Fieldhouse this week amidst concerns over COVID-19.

Thousands are expected to visit Indianapolis for the men’s basketball tournament from Wednesday to Sunday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. As Indiana announces its sixth confirmed case of coronavirus COVID-19, some fans are concerned large gatherings will encourage the spread of the virus.

This week Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced all major indoor sporting events in Ohio would be closed to spectators to contain the spread of COVID-19. This includes the Mid-American Conference basketball games featuring Ball State University’s men’s team. The Cardinals will play Kent State Thursday in a Cleveland stadium with no fans in attendance.

Governor DeWine said they’re at a critical time in their state and he sees this precaution as a life or death decision.

Ohio has three confirmed COVID-19 cases, compared to six in Indiana.

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Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb spoke to reporters Tuesday, saying he has to make a different decision than Governor DeWine because the facts here are different than next door.

Holcomb said he’s still able to leave it up to the people to decide if they want to attend a large gathering.

“This is all about staying informed on the facts on the ground as they change and they will continue to change,” said Governor Holcomb. “I encourage every citizen if they feel flu symptoms coming on, they need to get in touch with their healthcare provider first and foremost.”

Holcomb added that seniors and those with existing medical conditions should certainly limit their exposure to others.

NCAA president Mark Emmett released a statement making it clear: schools, states and conferences “make their own decisions regarding regular season and conference tournament play.”

It continues: “As we have stated, we will make decisions on our events based on the best, most current public health guidance available. Neither the NCAA COVID-19 advisory panel, made up of leading public health and infectious disease experts in America, nor the CDC or local health officials have advised against holding sporting events. In the event circumstances change, we will make decisions accordingly.”

The first Big 10 game Wednesday evening begins at 6 p.m. at Bankers Life Fieldhouse: Northwestern versus Minnesota. Then at 8:25 p.m., IU will play Nebraska.