State Sen. Bob Steinburg (R-Chowan) co-sponsored a bill that would allow more individuals to attend outdoor high school sporting events.

Senate Bill 116, which is named Let Them Play and Let Us Watch, would allow increased access to outdoor sporting facilities in public and nonpublic high schools in the state for the remainder of the 2020-21 academic year.

According to the North Carolina General Assembly website, the bill was filed Thursday.

The bill would allow outdoor facilities to allow up to 40% of its approved occupancy capacity under the fire code or, in the event the facility does not have an occupancy capacity under the fire code, no more than seven persons for every 1,000 square feet.

The bill requires schools to comply with requirements outlined in the StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit and the Interim Guidance for Administrators and Participants of Youth and Amateur Sports Programs.

In the bill, spectators do not include athletes, employees of a public or nonpublic high school, entertainers, or staff providing support for the sporting event.

“It is a good bill,” Steinburg said Friday afternoon.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic led to the restriction of spectators at sporting events.

Currently under Gov. Roy Cooper’s executive order, outdoor sporting facilities are limited to the lesser of 100 spectators or 30% of its total occupancy.

Steinburg, who represents District 1 (Camden, Chowan, Currituck, Dare, Gates, Hertford, Hyde, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Tyrrell and Washington counties), noted the requests from parents and others across the state to allow more spectators to attend outdoor high school sporting events.

“We felt like we needed to do something,” Steinburg said.

The senator noted that, if passed, the bill would be another step towards normalcy.

Steinburg added he believes there is enough room at outdoor high school facilities to work within the 40% capacity limit and also apply safety protocols like social distancing.


According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services COVID-19 website, COVID-19 daily cases and hospitalizations have trended down in recent weeks.

On Jan. 18, a total of 5,802 cases and 3,881 hospitalizations because of COVID-19 were reported.

As of Friday afternoon, there were 3,227 reported cases and 1,780 reported hospitalizations because of the virus.

Steinburg was committed to working on having the bill passed as fast as possible, but he noted Gov. Cooper could relax the spectator restriction with an updated executive order.

Steinburg also co-sponsored Senate Bill 115, the Students, Parents, Community Rights Act, which is based on similar guidelines in Senate Bill 116.

Senate Bill 115 only impacts Anson, Iredell, Moore, Richmond, Scotland, Union and Yadkin counties.

For North Carolina High School Athletic Association member schools, men’s soccer and lacrosse seasons are underway.

Football begins Friday, Feb. 26, while women’s soccer, golf, softball and men’s tennis start their seasons March 15.

Baseball, track and field, women’s tennis begin April 26.

Camden County, Cape Hatteras, Columbia, Currituck County, Edenton’s John A. Holmes, First Flight, Gates County, Hertford County, Manteo, Mattamuskeet, Northeastern, Ocracoke, Pasquotank County, Perquimans County and Washington County high schools are members of the NCHSAA.

For North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association members, in-season activities for baseball, softball, men’s tennis and track and field began Feb. 15.

Albemarle School in Elizabeth City and Ridgecroft School in Ahoskie are members of the NCISAA.