Tonight, September 14, your Denver Broncos will kick off their part of the 2020 football season that COVID-19 failed to stop (so far), facing off against the Tennessee Titans in a game that will be broadcast on Monday Night Football. And while the Empower Field at Mile High stands will be empty during the tilt, as they were at most NFL contests over the weekend, that won't be the case for the Broncos' next home game, on September 27, versus the Tom Brady-helmed Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The joint announcement of the plan made during a September 8 press conference by Governor Jared Polis and Brittany Bowlen, Broncos vice president of strategic initiatives (and face-of-the-franchise heir apparent), has already stirred its share of controversy, with Chris Zacher of Levitt Pavilion among those charging favoritism over the move. But questions also remain about just how the Broncos are going to maintain safety guidelines for around 5,700 attendees amid the ongoing pandemic.
For answers, Westword reached out to both the Broncos and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and asked for a look at the complete plan — but if such a document exists, it wasn't supplied by either entity. Instead, the Broncos pointed to the team's updated fan-experience page, which references the CDPHE and outlines how the process will work.
Although tickets for the game are not yet on sale, the page notes that "all Season Ticket Members will be automatically entered into a weighted lottery based on priority number for single-game tickets and parking passes."
The tickets of loyalists lucky enough to be chosen "will be distributed in 'pods,'" the page reveals, and "Season Ticket Members will have the ability to purchase as many as four seats in the same pod through the online process. Sections will be separated into thirty groups to limit exposure between fans with each defined area assigned restrooms and concessions."
According to Polis, the pods, or "cohorts," will each be limited to 175 people, the maximum number allowed for individual outdoor events under the current public-health order. Thirty pods of that size multiplies to 5,250 people; the additional 450 tickets are expected to go to family members of players and other special guests.
Tailgating won't be allowed in the stadium parking lots, and "fans who park on-site will be asked to not congregate" there, the Broncos warn. The team also stresses that attendees "are required to follow all six-foot social distancing markers that will be displayed throughout common areas inside and outside Empower Field at Mile High. These markers will help you line up for security screening, restrooms, shops and concessions."
Likewise, the page continues, "signage will be clearly displayed, reinforcing social distancing guidelines and the prohibition of congregating in groups within the concourses or seating bowl. To maintain pod integrity, fans will be required to attend the game with known guests or transfer the allotment as a single unit or to a family member/friend attending the game within the pod."
Stadium personnel will be "working to reduce congestion when entering and exiting Empower Field at Mile High," it notes. "Assigned entry gates will be based on your seat location. With social distancing in effect, fans are asked to provide extra time to go through the security screening process. Follow all posted signage to help maintain physical distancing. Be smart and continue to abide by physical distancing markers that appear in elevators and on escalators."
Don't expect to improve your sightlines, however. The Broncos page divulges that "the first several rows of seats closest to the field will be closed off to support physical distancing between fans and players. Empower Field at Mile High will also be blocking off seats to support physical distancing among fans. Please stick to your assigned seats."
Face coverings will be "mandatory for anyone in-stadium (fans and staff) and must be worn at all times (other than while actively eating or drinking), including during security screening. Wearing a face covering not only helps to protect you but also other patrons."
The team boasts that "Empower Field at Mile High will be as touchless as possible from the entry process to restrooms to concessions. The stadium is now a cashless venue. Payment options through mobile devices (ex: Apple Pay) and traditional scan/chip options for credit/debit cards at all points of sale will be implemented." On top of that, Aramark will operate self-service kiosks of the sort that debuted last season and "point-of-sale touchless concession options throughout the stadium."
A similar approach has been taken to restrooms, which have been transitioned to what are described as "entirely touchless systems, including toilets, sinks and paper towel dispensers." UV-C lights have also been installed under escalators "in order to reduce or eliminate bacteria on widely used handrails," and "bipolar ionization in the stadium's HVAC system" is "expected to both lower the risk of disease transfer and eliminate allergens." There will also be 500 hand-sanitizer stations accessible to fans — some stand-alone, others mounted to walls.
Staffers, for their part, "will go through a health screening (questionnaire and temperature check) and be required to wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at all times," the guidelines pledge. "For those staff who work in concessions or handle any 'high touch' surfaces, gloves will also be required. All staff and stadium employees will have their temperature taken before entering the building. Any temperature above 100.4 [Fahrenheit] will be flagged, and that employee will be sent home."
Ticket holders have responsibilities, too. They must agree that neither they nor their guests will attend the game if any one or more of the following is true on the day of the match-up:
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• Within the prior 14 days, they have tested positive for, or been exposed to someone who has tested positive for, COVID-19;
• Within the prior 48 hours, they have experienced symptoms of COVID-19 (e.g., a fever of 100.4?F or higher, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chills, repeated shaking, muscle pain/achiness, headache, sore throat, loss of taste or smell, nasal congestion, runny nose, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue or any other symptoms associated with COVID-19 identified by the CDC);
• Within the prior 14 days, they have travelled to any state or international territory identified by federal or applicable local governments as being subject to travel or quarantine advisories due to COVID-19.
The Broncos note: "According to the CDC, older adults and people of any age with serious underlying medical conditions may be at higher risk of death or severe illness from COVID-19. All guests should evaluate their risk in determining whether to attend a game."
Other liability-inspired warnings are printed in all caps: "AN INHERENT RISK OF EXPOSURE TO COVID-19 EXISTS IN ANY PUBLIC PLACE WHERE PEOPLE ARE PRESENT. COVID-19 IS AN EXTREMELY CONTAGIOUS DISEASE THAT CAN LEAD TO SEVERE ILLNESS AND DEATH. ... ACCORDING TO THE CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION, SENIOR CITIZENS AND THOSE WITH UNDERLYING MEDICAL CONDITIONS ARE ESPECIALLY VULNERABLE. ... BY ENTERING THE STADIUM AND STADIUM GROUNDS, YOU VOLUNTARILY ASSUME ALL RISKS RELATED TO EXPOSURE TO COVID-19."
Oh, and have a great time.