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'We want to do the right thing': Joe Ellis, Broncos to work with state, local officials to determine Empower Field at Mile High capacity

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — As Denver approaches its Sept. 14 home opener against Tennessee, Broncos President/CEO Joe Ellis declined to offer an exact figure on the number of fans that may be in attendance at Empower Field at Mile High this fall.

Ellis also said he was uncertain when fans would be permitted to attend games. He did, however, emphasize the Broncos were working closely with state and local officials and would proceed with caution.

"We've had conversations with the city and the state throughout this process," Ellis said Tuesday. "They've both been great to work with. They have access to a lot of the same science information [and] medical professionals that we through the NFL have had access to. I think they've both been very deliberate and very cautious in a really good way, and I think it's really helped Colorado in an area surrounded by a lot of states — some in the southwest and the west obviously where things had the potential to get out of control or more out of control than they have. I've been really impressed with them. They're proceeding with caution, and so are we. We want to do the right thing.

"I don't have a set number of fans for you, nor do I know when fans will be in the stands. But we're going to work through that. We're going to do it in partnership with the governor and the mayor of the city of Denver, and whatever we do, we'll have the health and safety and welfare of our fans, our players our coaches our entire staff [in mind]. … It's just a different deal. We aren't going to put out any number or make any demands. We're going to work together with the governor's office, the mayor's office and make sure we do this the right way."

The Broncos previously sent a letter to all season ticket holders offering three options for the upcoming seasons. Season ticket holders could choose to plan to attend games, request a full refund or defer their payments to the 2021 season. Fans will not be penalized for any of the three decisions.

Asked whether the Broncos had plans to use artificial crowd noise or fill the stands with cardboard cutouts of fans, Ellis said the team remained in discussions about how to proceed in the event fans aren't allowed at games.

"Playing football in a 75,000-seat stadium without any fans is going to be odd if that were to happen, no question about it," Ellis said. "Hopefully we can do some things to spice up the environment a little bit [and] add to the entertainment value of the television minus fans, since they'll be missing. [We have] no concrete plans. Some things have been talked about, but no concrete plans."

Regardless of whether fans are in attendance, Ellis said the Broncos plan to opt into the league's sponsorship program that would allow teams to place advertising banners on the first eight rows of seats.

"[There is] still a lot of stuff in the works, and a ways to go before we are able to let fans know they can come back into the stadium to watch games," Ellis said.

Despite the uncertainty, Ellis said fans have remained consistent in their desire to return to Empower Field at Mile High to cheer on the Broncos.

"Almost to a tee, when I've been out and about around town and anywhere, people want to come watch us play," Ellis said. "They really do. But we have to respect the fact that it's important for everybody in this community and this state to stay safe, follow the protocols that the governor has put in place and do everything we can not to put any people in harm's way, so we'll follow that."

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