Colonial Life Arena is one of many venues in the Columbia area opening up for larger social gatherings in April. Photos by: Mary Claire Warren
Colonial Life Arena will be opening back up on April 9 for non-sports related events for the first time in nearly a year.
On March 1, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster raised capacity for large gatherings and events so that gatherings of more than 250 people no longer need approval from the South Carolina Department of Commerce.
This change has allowed larger venues in South Carolina to operate at 50% capacity and hold events including more people. For Colonial Life Arena, this means over 6,000 people could be in the arena at one time.
“I mean, I have to look at it as a good thing,” said 56-year-old Howie Mills, of Columbia. “We need to get back to normal and having concerts and other social gatherings is a good step.”
Many Columbians agree. As the U.S. passes the one-year anniversary of the beginning of COVID-19, people have become fatigued with the “new normal” that has been put into place. Some people believe as long as safety precautions are taken, large events should be allowed.
“I think as long as everyone’s wearing masks and being smart, it’s fine,” said University of South Carolina student Katherine Potter. “I’m ready to start having concerts again—they’re probably the thing I miss most from before the pandemic.”
The only gatherings that have been held at Colonial Life Arena this year have been University of South Carolina sports events. The first event that is not sanctioned by the university will be Monster Jam, a motorsports experience geared towards families, on April 9-11. Following this, many concerts and comedy performances have been announced for the spring and early summer.
Other venues throughout the Columbia area have also started to publicize their upcoming events.
Koger Center for the Arts has been hosting events since the change to capacity limits in early March. At 50% capacity, Koger Center can hold around 1,000 people attending dance performances, plays, and concerts that the venue presents.
Columbia Speedway also has concerts booked throughout the month of April. Some South Carolina locals feel more comfortable at venues like Columbia Speedway because it isn’t an enclosed space with a definite capacity limit.
“I feel especially safe in outdoor places,” said Selena Green, 19, of Columbia. “Even during the summer when the pandemic was worse, I would go out to dinner and sit outside sometimes. You can space yourself out a little more like that.”