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Table Rock Sports offers fans option in wake of spectator ban

Mandates from Gov. Kate Brown and the Oregon Health Authority that have essentially led schools to ban spectators at high school football games this spring have left many up in arms, but there may be movement on that front.

Medford School District officials sent a proposal Wednesday to the governor in hopes of expanding the state’s outdoor venue capacity of 120, specifically at Spiegelberg Stadium, and now fingers are crossed for good news soon.

“At this point we’re advocating for families and I don’t have a timeline for when we’ll hear back,” said Fred Kondziela, assistant director of human resources and district athletics in Medford. “I’m hoping it’s immediate in a response from the governor for our proposal to allow spectators, but we really don’t know.”

As the district, and potentially the rest of the state, await word on such a proposal, varsity football games begin Friday and fans are clamoring to find a way to watch.

That’s where Table Rock Sports and its dedication to live streaming games at no cost to the viewer really expects to take over this spring.

“There has probably never been this kind of demand to be able to see the games,” said Joe Brett, co-founder and president of Table Rock Sports. “That’s why we’re trying to take on every single event that we can because we just know that, aside from the pandemic, the parents aren’t able to be part of these sports now coming back. It is what it is. We can’t wait until the stands are full and we’re back hopefully next fall just roaring back to life like usual, but this is just a really unusual circumstance.”

With gates closed to fans, Table Rock Sports has expanded its online video coverage of games to seven high schools: North Medford, South Medford, Grants Pass, Crater, Phoenix, Cascade Christian and St. Mary’s.

That includes football, soccer and volleyball for Season 2, as well as potentially cross-country, with viewing and an upcoming schedule available at tablerocksports.net.

“We’re attempting to do every home varsity event that we can for them,” said Brett. “My gosh, I’ve got 130 events on my dry erase board in five weeks.”

“Two things will keep us from getting every single one of these events on,” he added. “One is just the personnel being spread thin because all of our people have full-time jobs as well, and the other thing is the weather. We’re outside at U.S. Cellular (Community Park) and South and North for soccer so if we have absolute downpours, it’s not safe and it’s not practical to work outside. We’re praying for good weather this spring.”

It’s important to note that all home games for Crater will be carried through the NFHS Network. Comet fans gain unlimited access to all of their events this year, including at the junior varsity and freshman levels, by visiting NFHSnetwork.com, searching for Crater and subscribing and following the school account. Subscription options include a $10.99 per month pass or $69.99 annual pass.

Also, Stephens Media Group will be providing radio coverage for North Medford and South Medford football games this season. North Medford games will air on 96.1-FM/580-AM, and South Medford games will air on 99.5-FM/880-AM.

Table Rock Sports co-founder Pete Belcastro began broadcasting Ashland High games in 1992, and things really ramped up in 1995 through an agreement to handle Medford radio coverage. The group began providing online video coverage of games in 2012, but never foresaw how impactful their efforts would be now.

“We are having people double up on games, often with soccer and volleyball on the same day,” said Brett.

Triple is the name of the game for the Medford School District, where Kondziela said the proposal it submitted involves a photo of Spiegelberg Stadium and a breakdown of how the venue could, and should, be considered for three times the regular capacity since it allows for three separate entrances, three sets of bathrooms and more than enough space to spread out 360 people.

All outdoor capacity limits include those playing and coaching in the games, as well as game managers, officials, a chain crew, some administrative oversight and a handful of media members.

As hopeful as Kondziela and company may be, that is also tempered by the knowledge that it may take a couple weeks to hear back from the governor on the proposal and then added time to put any good news in play.

“If spectators were allowed, we would then need adequate time to plan and hire game managers to work the games and account for safety of fans,” said Kondziela. “We will probably need at least a week to get our ducks in a row. Running a football game without fans is one thing, running it with fans is a completely different story, especially with social distancing and masks and everything that’s going to need to be taken into consideration.”

Kondziela said it was important to the district to see if it can ease current spectator restrictions in any way.

“We have to try,” he said. “We have seniors in high school that it would be fabulous if not only they could play but they could have their parents there. I think it’s really important to make the attempt and if we get a yes, then awesome.”

Have a story idea? Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@rosebudmedia.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry

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