Rick George has some history in baseball, so he might be paying attention to the Colorado Rockies’ season-opening homestand to see how the team performs.
There’s no question, however, that the University of Colorado athletic director will pay attention to what’s going on in the stands because it could have an impact on the Buffaloes in the fall.
“I’m hopeful that we can learn a lot from what the Rockies are doing and what the other professional sports are doing right now, but our desire would be to put as many people as we can safely into our stadium and into our events center this winter,” George said Thursday.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, CU was not allowed to have fans at Folsom Field for the 2020 football season or at the CU Events Center for the basketball season – with the exception of a limited number of family members at one football game and a few late-season basketball games.
The Rockies, who opened their season on Thursday at Coors Field against the reigning World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers, didn’t have any fans during the 2020 season.
Meanwhile, the Denver Nuggets and Colorado Avalanche have played their seasons to this point without fans at Ball Arena in Denver.
That’s changing this week, however. As more people are receiving the COVID-19 vaccine and case rates are declining, fans are returning to games in Colorado.
The Rockies are allowing up to 42.6% of capacity at Coors Field (21,363 out of 50,144 seats) for the opening homestand. Beginning Friday, the Nuggets and Avalanche will allow 4,050 fans (about 22% of capacity) at Ball Arena.
“I’m really pleased to see the Rockies being able to have (almost) 50% of people in their venue,” George said. “Then, starting to see more people at the Avalanche and the Nuggets I think gives us a lot of optimism, and cautious optimism, for what the fall will look like.”
In the fall, CU has six football games scheduled for Folsom Field in Boulder, along with a matchup against Texas A&M slated for Sept. 11 at Empower Field at Mile High in Denver.
“I think we’ve got a great home schedule in football and men’s basketball and I think we could fill it if we have the opportunity to do that,” George said. “But we’ll work closely with our county and our state on what they will allow. We’ll adhere to their guidelines.”
CU is working on several different models as it tries to project a budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year. They have models that include hitting 50, 70, or 90 percent of projected revenue.
With no fans last year, the Buffs are looking at only 50% percent of revenue for the fiscal year. CU will lose more than $40 million in revenue between the lack of ticket sales and a lower distribution amount from the Pac-12. Overall, CU projects a deficit of about $20 million.
In 2019, CU generated roughly $20.24 million in football ticket sales and about $3.02 million in men’s basketball ticket sales.
If the Denver pro sports teams are able to safely host fans, that could allow CU to do the same when it kicks off the football season on Sept. 3 against Northern Colorado at Folsom Field.
George said he’s not worried about Boulder County being more conservative than Denver in allowing fans – especially because all Coloradans 16 and older will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine starting Friday.
“Our hope is that it’ll be consistent across the entire state on what that looks like by the time we get to the middle of the summer,” George said. “If everybody can start getting vaccinated starting tomorrow, I think that gives us great hope that we’ll be able to come back and be able to put a lot of fans in Folsom stadium and then in our events center.”