DENVER (CBS4) - The Denver Broncos plan to allow a limited number of fans at Empower Field at Mile High starting with their Week 3 matchup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A maximum of 5,700 will be allowed in the stands for that game, and those will mostly be season ticket holders.
The announcement was made on Tuesday afternoon by Gov. Jared Polis and Brittany Bowlen, the team's VP of Strategic Initiatives. During the coronavirus pandemic, Bowlen has been working on the plan to allow fans to attend games and she said there will be extensive health and safety measures in place for those who attend.
"We are not back to normal. Empower Field at Mile High will look and feel very different this year. In addition to mask and social distancing requirements, seating will be done in small pods and sections will be broken into groups," Bowlen said. "Our organization is hopeful that this is the start to gradually increasing fans at Broncos games this season, but we understand that that takes the entire community, both on game days and in our daily lives doing our part."
The Broncos stadium's capacity is 76,125, so 5,700 in attendance means approximately 7.5% of Mile High will be filled. Concession areas and restrooms will be "touchless and cashless," according to Bowlen. No tailgating outside the stadium or lengthy gatherings of any kind will allowed.
The team worked with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment over a three month period to come up with the special rules.
"We wouldn't even be in this position to be talking about going to a Broncos game ... if we hadn't been successful in Colorado -- more successful than many other states -- in wearing masks, social distancing and avoiding large gatherings," Polis said.
Season ticket members interested in attending the Week 3 game will entered into a lottery, and it will be weighted according to their priority number. The team will contact season ticket holders with further details. The half-price tickets that the team normally sells for each home game will also be available but they only account for a very small number of seats.
The Broncos season starts out at home on Monday night against the Tennessee Titans, and there are no fans allowed in the stands for that game due to the coronavirus pandemic, aside from a few family members of players and staff and a few guests. Their Week 2 matchup is an away game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. After the Week 3 game on Sept. 27, the Broncos next home game isn't until Oct. 18 -- they face the Miami Dolphins in Week 6.
The entire NFL preseason was scrapped due to the pandemic, offseason workouts were canceled and training camp started much later than planned and also without fans in attendance.
Polis spoke at length about why the Broncos will be allowed to operate under special attendance rules with their large event, saying the following:
The Broncos are playing by the same rules here as every other type of large event. They're having a series of 175 person events in a very large outdoor setting, so of course that provides a framework for any other types of larger events that want to have cohorted groups of 175 with distinct entry points and operational distinction between them. And we encourage everybody, you know, including the (Bandimere) Speedway and others that want to have large events to really find a way to do that safely, because we want to get back to normal as quickly as possible, and having these events in a safe way is a big part of that.
... This isn't specific to any venue but whenever you have a large outdoor venue there are absolutely ways to have a larger group, more people attend than 175, by having them in distinct groups of 175. Why 175? Sure, it could be you know 150 or 180, but why, why a number? It's because that really taps out the ability to do the contact tracing and notification piece which is so important in fighting the virus. If you have a group of 1,000 altogether and two or three people have coronavirus it's very hard to contact all thousand or even know who was around all thousand. When it's a smaller distinct size group -- 150, 175, 120, just that cohort will be notified that they might have been exposed to the virus. So, the way the Broncos are doing it is really first class, like everything about the Broncos organization, and other groups absolutely are looking at following that. I think there's a motorway looking at conducting events. As soon as Major League Baseball is willing to have fans, the Rockies also have an excellent plan to be able to do it. But I want to applaud the Broncos for really leading the way and putting together a cohesive, thoughtful approach to making sure that fans are reasonably safe. And that doesn't mean that fans that are at risk necessarily are going to want to run out to a Broncos game. If you're in your late 70s, or you're have some pre-existing conditions you are going to want to think twice about attending these events in person, but for the rest of us that shouldn't stand in the way of them being able to serve people in a way -- with cohorts of up to 175, with separate facilities and ability to get in -- that allows people to cheer on the Broncos in person.
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