DENVER (CBS4) – It was far from the normal experience, but a limited number of fans got the chance to watch the Broncos game in-person Sunday. The crowd of 5,700 was mostly season ticket holders and everyone was required to social distance and wear a mask. The plan to accommodate a limited crowd had the approval of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and was announced by Gov. Jared Polis on Sept. 8.
CBS4 spoke to a number of fans before and after the game against Tampa Bay.
“It was interesting,” said a fan named Mike. “I’m glad I was there, but it was really unusual.”
While fans used many words to describe the experience, the most common were ‘weird,’ ‘surreal,’ and ‘fun.’ Overall, those same fans said say they felt safe, were happy to watch the Broncos in person, and most of them would put up with the new rules to do it again.
“With the whole situation, the way everything is, it sometimes makes you wonder, is this worth it?” asked Keith Wall, a season ticket holder who flew in from Houston to attend the game. “ I think our answer is still going to be yes.”
Though the enthusiasm was the same as it’s ever been, Sunday afternoon at Empower Field at Mile High was nothing less than a sign of the times. The temporary, new normal was immediately noticeable from the outside due to half-filled parking lots and near-empty security lines.
“It feels a little bit different, no tailgating and only having 7% of the fans in here, but no lines, up close parking, that’s great,” said Johnny Jay.
Inside, the concourses and concession stands were far from bustling. Ahead of the game, the Broncos told CBS4 they planned to open a large number of stands to avoid lines and upgraded all concessions and restrooms to make them touchless.
“There was no line for the bathroom, no lines for food, no lines for drinks,” Chad Yakobson.
Come game time, fans sat spread out in their seating pods of 1 to 6 close friends or family members. Mask wearing was required, except when someone was eating or drinking.
“They had little placards and if they saw people that didn’t have their mask, they’d hold up their placard,” said Broncos “super fan” Chuck Devorss.
“You felt like you were kind of being watched really hard,” said Beth Blifford. “I can kind of understand it to an extent, but it was a little uncomfortable.”
For some, abiding by the strict rules was just the price to pay for bit of normalcy.
“It was wonderful to see football, hear it, watch it go on,” said Mike, who asked not to use his last name.
With Sunday being a first, some see plenty of room for growth and improvement. Most fans told CBS4 they thought the stadium could safely accommodate several thousand more fans at the next game.
“Two weeks from now I hope that there’s twice as many fans and then three times and four times,” said Yakobson. “I hope they’re able to do it and manage it and people can be safe.”
According to Jay Roberts, GM of Empower Field at Mile High, 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.