Late yesterday afternoon, Governor Jared Polis made a surprising announcement. The upcoming Denver Broncos game on September 27 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will allow for in-person attendance. However, unlike other nearly every other venue in the city, the newly named Empower Stadium is cleared not just for a couple of fans, but thousands — 5,700 to be exact. There are plans to even increase that number as games go on.
“We are able to take this step due to Coloradans doing our part in wearing masks and avoiding large groups and the commitment and dedication of the Broncos to go above and beyond in putting together an experience for fans that is as safe as possible. As I’ve been saying all along, this virus isn’t going away any time soon and we’ve got to figure out a way to live with this virus,” said Polis in a press release.
For concert go-ers, this may come as a shock since Denver Arts & Venues — which runs the majority of the city’s largest venues such as Red Rocks, Denver Performing Arts Complex and more — are being forced to shutter indefinitely starting in October. Seventy employees were also furloughed. According, to Arts & Venues representative Brian Kitts, the closure is because Arts & Venues has to raise funds for many of its major expenses such as labor and upkeep. The lack of large scale events has not allowed these venues to raise enough money since the current variance for all outdoor events is capped at 175 people.
However, the Broncos stadium is now being allowed to host 30 times that number. Empower Stadium is the largest capacity venue in the city (at nearly 80,000) but if a similar capacity rule was applied proportionally to Red Rocks, nearly 700 fans would be able to attend a concert there — not 175. But Kitts seems hopeful that this new model will bring about change for other venues in the future by setting a precedent.
“Everyone in the sports and entertainment industry is cheering along with the Broncos right now. It looks like the State has OK’d a unique and thoughtful model for increasing event capacities at venues of varying sizes. There’s been such a variety of proposals based on a venue’s square footage, indoor/outdoor usage and more, so it’s heartening to see some sort of precedent in starting to rebuild these special businesses under the circumstances,” said Kitts.
Zacher’s concern is not singular. Just last week venues across the country made a plea for help in the form of #RestartRedAlert. The initiative had 1,500 venues across the country light up red in order to signal they may have to close. It also acted as a call to Congress to pass an aid package to the events industry. This included many of the Denver Arts & Venues — which has since announced a forced hiatus. Unless Congressional aid, an increase in capacity or other actions are taken, many other venues may not be far behind.
We have reached out to Governor Polis’ office for additional comments. For more information about the Broncos’ games go here.