The Indianapolis Colts are holding out hope they will have at least some fans in attendance for their home opener Sept. 20 against the Minnesota Vikings — just maybe not as many as they would have liked.
In their latest proposal to the Marion County Public Health Department, the Colts are seeking approval to allow Lucas Oil Stadium to be filled to 15% capacity (about 10,500 fans). That number is a reduction from the 25% estimate the team made at the end of July.
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Team COO Pete Ward told IndyStar on Friday the team expects to know if it will have approval toward the end of next week.
The Colts’ 15% proposal, Ward said, was the result of many conversations with local authorities about what might be accepted. The proposal includes a seating manifest that demonstrates how the Colts intend to keep fans socially distant during the game.
“Any gathering over 1,000 has to receive approval from the department of health,” Ward said. “We kind of think that we can safely do more than 15%, but 15% is safer than 25%. You’re able to distance people more. It’s just taking an extra precaution.”
Ward was quick to clarify, however, that 15% was the Colts’ proposal. If a lower figure is approved, for instance, that would be what the Colts would have to abide by.
The Colts plan, which was made in consultation with the NFL and its chief medical officer, Dr. Allen Sills, includes a myriad of precautions for fans to attend games. Masks, of course, would be mandatory. Fans also would be temperature-screened and asked to fill out a questionnaire before being allowed in the stadium.
Once in the stadium, families would be allowed to sit next to one another. Groups of fans, however, could not sit any closer than six feet apart, both in rows front and behind as well as side to side.
The plan also includes cashless payment only for concessions as well socially distant lines for both concessions and restrooms.
As far as how to determine which 15% of fans could attend games, Ward said the fairest way the Colts could think to do it was by seniority. In other words, those longest-tenured season ticket-holders would have first shot at the Colts’ two available four-game ticket packages. The packages are broken up into the Colts’ first four home games (vs. Minnesota, Baltimore, Houston and Tennessee) and second four home games (vs. New York Jets, Cincinnati, Green Bay and Jacksonville).
By the second half of the season, however, Ward is hoping they’re allowed to open up Lucas Oil Stadium to more than just 15% capacity.
“We’re hoping we start at 15% and as the season goes on, the circumstances change, we will have the potential to increase that number,” Ward said. “At the end of the day, (the county) just wants to do this the right way, and we do to. We want it to be safe.”
Follow IndyStar Colts Insider Jim Ayello on Twitter: @jimayello.