Pacific Northwest Qualifier will require everyone to show negative COVID test or vaccination

SPOKANE, Wash. — The Pacific Northwest Qualifier, which brings in the most money for Spokane out of any sporting event, will go on this year. The pandemic is forcing a lot of changes for the volleyball tournament like when it will happen, how many people can watch and proving you don’t have COVID-19.

The PNQ was scheduled to happen in March. Because of COVID-19 the tournament will happen from May 15-17 and May 21-23.

“This one is very small, compared to normal,” said PNQ director April Stark. “We’ll have 16 courts in the convention center, which is down from 21.”

Instead of 700 teams, it is down to nearly 300 between the Spokane Convention Center and the Hub Sports Center. The amount of people who can watch is not a free for all this year.

At the HUB, it is down to six courts from eight. There will be a morning wave of four teams for court and the same will happen in the afternoon.

“With the capacity limits for Phase 3, we can allow one spectator per player,” said Stark.

These aren’t the only changes coming in May.

To get inside, the PNQ is making everyone show a negative COVID test, taken the week of the tournament. Or if you’re fully vaccinated, meaning two weeks after your last dose, you can show them your vaccination card.

There are more changes inside.

“Spectators are going to be limited and placed on certain sides of the net. Teams don’t switch sides anymore,” Stark said. “One thing we’re doing at the convention center is we are putting up the air walls so that will divide and that will count as different rooms in the convention center rather than one big space.”

Also, U18 teams, the older players, will not be in this tournament. It is disappointing news for girls like April’s daughter Avery, who did not know her last PNQ would be in 2019.

“I’m sad that it got cancelled for my age group, but as we’re going into phase 3 still, I’m super excited for the younger girls that are still going to get to play and get these experiences that I didn’t get, or other girls my age didn’t get,” Avery said.

Players won’t be able to give high fives or watch other teams, but April said she is excited to get the kids playing safely.

“It’s not as much, but it’s something,” April said. “I think it’s hopefully going to be the catalyst to get us moving forward and start getting back to normal.”

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