Bull riding may be 1st US professional sport to welcome fans

Full Screen
1 / 2

FILE - In this Aug. 18, 2018, file photo, Jordan Allen of Buffalo, Mo., is thrown from this bull during competition at the Extreme Bull Riding Tour stop in Yankton, S.D. Professional Bull Riders has announced a new series of competition that will culminate in South Dakota on July 10-12 with live crowds. Event organizers said they will provide face coverings to fans, space seats four to six feet apart and control the flow of people in and out of the arena to accommodate social distancing. (Kelly Hertz/Yankton Press & Dakotan via AP, File)

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – One of the first professional athletic sports to allow spectators to attend as states gradually lift restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus is known for its wild, dangerous action: bull riding.

Professional Bull Riders has announced a new competition that will culminate in South Dakota on July 10-12 with live crowds. As people itch for a return to daily activity, it’s all a part of an effort by professional sports organizations around the world to give bored fans at least a taste of what once was.

Organizers of the bull riding event said they would provide face coverings to fans, space seats 4 to 6 feet apart and control the flow of people in and out of the arena to accommodate social distancing.

Germany’s soccer Bundesliga returned this weekend with live soccer, albeit without supporters in the stands. The games were played with sanitized balls, celebrated with fist bumps rather than hugs, and cheered by masked substitute players rather than thousands of bellowing fans.

American professional sports organizations — keen to hear the roar of fans accompanying a photo finish or a 20-foot putt — are working out how they can ease back into live events without exposing spectators to the virus.

The PGA tour plans to bring back golf tournaments in June, but organizers have said they won’t allow crowds for at least a month. NASCAR fans, barred from the raceway, gathered outside Darlington Raceway in South Carolina on the weekend just to hear the roar of the engines.

As one of the first events slated to allow spectators, the bull-riding competition will be a test — and a step toward a return to normalcy.

The sound from fans will be subdued. The bull-riding competition will take place in the 12,000-seat Sanford Denny Premier Center in Sioux Falls, but tickets will be offered for only 35% of seats.