MONROE CITY, Mo. -- At about 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, the Monroe City High School athletic office said that it had sold the school's entire allotment of 500 tickets to this weekend's Class 3 final four in Springfield, Mo.
Monroe City fans were planning to pack the JQH Arena on the campus of Missouri State University in Springfield, Mo., on Friday at 6:20 p.m. for the Class 3 semifinal match against Charleston.
But by 12:30 p.m., those plans were dashed.
Monroe City posted a notice on the school's activities Facebook page the news that in response to concerns over the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), crowds for the final four will be limited to 150 fans for each school.
Now, Monroe City and Charleston will play before in a mostly empty JQH Arena.
Leaders of the Monroe City RI School District were unavailable Thursday afternoon, but an employee said that school officials were still working to figure how to distribute wristbands.
"We will continue to inform the public on information as it becomes available to us," the school said.
In a late morning announcement, MSHSAA Executive Director Kerwinn Urhnan said that the organization decided to limit crowds after consulting the Green County Director of Public Health and Missouri State University officials.
The Missouri high school basketball final four joins a growing list of sporting events, leagues and teams impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. The NCAA canceled its men's and women's national basketball tournaments on Thursday afternoon, and the National Basketball Assocation, Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer and the National Hockey League have all suspended their seasons.
Dozens of other teams and events were considering how to curtail activities on Thursday, as the list of cancellations seemed to grow by the hour.
"With a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the state and concern for the safety of all who will be working and attending the Show-Me Showdown, each school will be given 150 wristbands to distribute to its fans base. Only fans that have been given a wristband will be allowed in the arena," MSHAAA stated in an announcement.
MSHSAA officials said that individual schools would decide how to distribute the wristbands and that only what it called essential school personnel will be allowed access to the arena.
"Any tickets previously purchased are now void," MSHSHAA said. "The MSHSAA Office will work with the participating schools on any reimbursements that need to be made."
All other activities associated with the weekend have been cancelled, such as entertainment groups and recognitions have been cancelled. There will also be no third-place games played, only the semifinals and championship games. MSHSAA said that games will be streamed live at www.MSHSAA.tv.
"We understand the unexpected hurdles this creates for our schools and fans and apologize for the inconveniences it has caused. We wish the best of luck to all of our teams and a safe and healthy return home," Urhnan said in a statement.