Indianapolis Colts officials plan to meet with the Marion County Public Health Department on Friday to discuss tighter spectator capacity limits than previously expected at Lucas Oil Stadium during home games this season.
The team will propose starting the season with stands around 15% of capacity—about 10,050 people—with the possibility of increasing to 25% capacity or more as the season progresses, depending on the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.
That’s a more conservative health and safety plan than the one announced in late July, when the team said it expected to host games at about 25% of spectator capacity.
Lucas Oil Stadium holds about 67,000 fans.
“In the interest of caution, we want to start at 15%,” Pete Ward, chief operating officer for the Colts, told IBJ. “Provided that the 25% rule still is in effect throughout the season, it gives us—if the COVID situation improves—the opportunity to expand (capacity).”
Ward said capacity would likely be around 9,500 to 10,000 fans per game, or just under 15%.
He added that such a decision to increase that figure would come later in the year, “depending on circumstances.” The team is scheduled to play its first home game Sept. 20 against the Minnesota Vikings and its eighth and final home game of the regular season on Jan. 3 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. There are no preseason games this season.
The Colts are one of several National Football League teams to announce plans to play at a reduced fan capacity, mostly ranging from 15% to 25%. A few teams have decided against home fans altogether for the season, including the Las Vegas Raiders, Chicago Bears, New York Giants and and New York Jets.
The New Orleans Saints plan to play their season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at an empty stadium, and the Green Bay Packers aren’t planning any spectators for their first two home games.
The Colts are modifying the health and safety plan it submitted earlier this month to the county health department to reflect the changes to the proposed capacity. The revised plan will be resubmitted the first week of September, after Ward and other team personnel meet with health officials to discuss the proposed changes.
The health plan is the result of collaboration between NFL and team officials, the health department and stadium officials, Ward said.
The health department has final say on whether fans will be permitted at games, based on its assessment of the team’s submitted plans.
A spokesperson for the health department confirmed to IBJ that the team’s health plan is “under review and discussions,” but did not further elaborate.
In a statement, stadium spokeswoman Lisa Vielee said venue officials continue working with the team and health department.
“The Indiana Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium are working with the Colts on their mitigation plans and helping them work through those with the Marion County Health Department,” she said.
The team plans to implement health screenings at all entrances, require the use of masks throughout the season and display signage encouraging social distancing. Extensive cleaning and disinfecting measures are also expected to be put in place.
The stadium’s concessions will also face some changes, with cashless payments only, closable food containers and a moratorium on drink refills.
The Colts plan to automatically defer 2020 season tickets over to the 2021 season, while offering two half-season packages this season to season-ticket holders—each with four games. The first package is made up of home games against Minnesota, Baltimore, Houston and Tennessee, while the second has the games against the New York Jets, Cincinnati, Green Bay and Jacksonville.
“Everything about this season is unprecedented,” Ward said. “But we are no different [from] any other business trying to maneuver through this pandemic. … We feel that the presence of fans at our home games will be a psychological and economic boost for downtown Indy.”