DENVER (CBS4) – In just a few days, Denver Broncos fans will return to Empower Field at Mile High to see their team take on Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 3 of the NFL season. On Tuesday, CBS4 got an inside look at what it will be like to attend a Broncos game amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
About 5,700 fans, mostly season ticket holders, will attend the game on Sunday, which is about 7.5% capacity. The plan to accommodate a limited crowd has the approval of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and was announced by Gov. Jared Polis on Sept. 8.
“We put together an extensive plan that outlines how we can get fans in and to their seats in a socially distanced and safe manner,” said Jay Roberts, Mile High’s GM.
According to the Broncos, the safe experience starts outside the stadium. Attendees will not be allowed to tailgate and must enter through the specific gate assigned to their ticket. Fans will also be asked to stay home if they aren’t healthy or have been around someone exposed to COVID-19.
“You’re taking your temperature prior to coming to the stadium, you’re not sick, you haven’t been around anyone that tested positive for COVID-19,” said John Applegate, Director of Events and Booking at the stadium.
To get inside Mile High, fans will need an electronic ticket and a face mask. Mask wearing is both a requirement under state and NFL health guidelines.
“It will be checked, it will be enforced,” said Applegate. “The one condition is when you are in your seat actively eating and drinking.”
From there, the 5,700 fans will be split up into pods of 1-6 family members or close friends. The seats for each pod are marked with white stickers, while surrounding seats are tied up to keep people from moving or visiting with other pods.
“If I come to the game with my family, that’s my trusted group,” said Roberts. “That pod, the last person in the seating row, has to be at least 6 feet away from the start of the next pod.”
Each section of pods will have their own area of concessions and restrooms. To make the experience as safe as possible, the stadium has recently upgraded all concessions and restrooms to make them touchless. UV-C lights were also installed under escalators to reduce or eliminate bacteria.
“We’ve tried to make the experience as touchless and as frictionless as possible when you enter the building,” Roberts said.
All transactions will also be cashless. If someone comes without a credit or debit card, they’ll be able to put money into a reverse ATM that transfers the money onto a debit card.
Stadium officials say many concessions stands will be open to avoid the possibility of long lines. Throughout the concourse there are numerous signs encouraging social distancing and hand sanitizer machines for fans to use.
“We will have roam teams in the concourses that will make sure we don’t have large gatherings,” Roberts said.
Like anywhere else, COVID-19 exposure and spread is possible, but so is contact tracing with the information available to the ticketing office.
“Because we have that contact information for everybody coming to the game, if we did have an area that we needed to contact somebody, we could get that to the local health department,” Roberts said.
After 50 years of sellouts, Sunday won’t be what fans, staff, or players are used to, but it’s what’s currently allowed.
According to Roberts, the Broncos could accommodate about 17,000 fans while still maintaining social distancing requirements. Such a scenario would need to be approved by the state.
“The better we do together as a team, the more that people follow the rules, the quicker we’re going to be able to get to the 17,000,” said Roberts.
While the lottery for season ticket holders has already occurred, fans still have a chance at getting tickets to the game. On Friday morning at 10 a.m., about 150 half-priced tickets will go on sale on Ticketmaster.com.
According to stadium officials, tickets can be sold or transferred as an allotment or to a family member or close friend attending the game with the pod.