Denver Broncos to bring back in-person fans in trial of COVID-19 precautions

5,700 can watch from the stands as home team takes on Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sept. 27

Drew Lock of the Denver Broncos passes against the Oakland Raiders in the first quarter of a game at Empower Field at Mile High on Dec. 29, 2019, in Denver. (Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

The Denver Broncos plan to allow a limited number of people to attend football games in person, starting with 5,700 people at a Sept. 27 home game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Gov. Jared Polis and Broncos executive Brittany Bowlen announced at a Sept. 8 news conference.

That number equates to a small fraction — 7.5% — of the stadium’s capacity in normal times, which is 76,125, according to a statement from the football team.

“Once operationally, the Broncos … at the stadium level as well as the administrative level, are able to successfully implement this, there’s certainly the opportunity to look at additional fans a few weeks later as well,” Polis said.

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Under Colorado’s “Safer at Home” orders governing capacity limits during the COVID-19 pandemic, outdoor events can have no more than 175 people in one place. But Polis and Bowlen said the team is getting around those restrictions by separating attendees into groups of up to 175, who will arrive at different entry points and sit in separate sections.

Brittany Bowlen, the Denver Broncos’ vice president of strategic initiatives, joins Gov. Jared Polis on Sept. 8, 2020, during a news briefing about Colorado’s response to COVID-19. (Governor Jared Polis Facebook)

“There will be face mask requirements as well as social distancing,” said Bowlen, the team’s vice president of strategic initiatives. She explained that attendees will be seated in “pods” of one to six people separated by 6 feet from other pods.

Theoretically, such a plan could keep a potential outbreak from spreading to all of the event’s 5,000-plus attendees.

Colorado venues have struggled to stay afloat without the ability to hold events during the coronavirus pandemic, and some have protested public health orders that limit events.

At Bandimere Speedway in Jefferson County, hundreds of people gathered Sept. 1 to rally in defiance of public health restrictions. The event was hosted by the Bandimere family, state House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, conservative personality Michelle Malkin, and attorney Randy Corporon, according to a statement from the venue.

CBS4 Denver reports that the Bandimere family filed a lawsuit against Gov. Jared Polis, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and the Jefferson County Department of Health on Sept. 3 — the same day Jefferson County’s health department filed an injunction after the “Stop The COVID Chaos” rally.

Protest for our Freedom 🇺🇸https://sraphoto.zenfolio.com/covidchaos

Posted by Bandimere Speedway on Thursday, September 3, 2020

The Bandimere family was represented by Corporon’s firm, which is also representing Malkin and Neville in a separate lawsuit over Polis’ executive orders and public health orders issued during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Colorado Supreme Court declined to hear that case.

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