GREEN BAY, Wis. – Venerable Lambeau Field has hosted 350 consecutive sellout crowds. It will be empty, however, for the first two games of the 2020 season.
The Green Bay Packers announced on Thursday afternoon that it will not allow fans into the Week 2 game against Detroit and the Week 4 game against Atlanta due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Lambeau Field will not be the same without our fans’ energetic support in the stands,” Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy said via Packers.com. “Given the extraordinary circumstances this year and the additional protocols in place, though, we determined it was best to take incremental steps to start the regular season. These two games will allow us to focus our attention on safely conducting games inside the stadium with all necessary participants.
“We are hopeful that we will be able to host fans for games later in the season, should conditions allow. We will continue to consult with community healthcare and public health officials on the pandemic conditions in our area. We ask our fans to continue to help by wearing masks and maintaining social distancing guidelines.”
The Packers’ third home game is on Nov. 1 against the Minnesota Vikings. Whether fans will be allowed into the stadium for any of the final six regular-season games will depend on the status of the virus. The team said it will continue to evaluate a variety of factors in consultation with local medical and public health officials. If the Packers do allow fans into games later in the season, they will alert season-ticket holders who have opted in for purchasing tickets.
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Playing without fans was a possibility Murphy acknowledged last month in detailing Green Bay’s financial situation. While he said the team was considering hosting between 10,000 and 12,000 fans at home games, he also acknowledged the possibility the stadium could be empty.
“When you step back and you look at it, roughly two-thirds of our revenue comes from our broadcast television,” Murphy said following the virtual shareholders meeting. “As we look at it, the first priority is getting the games in and getting them on television. If we’re able to do that, then we’ll be able to cover our player costs, which obviously is our biggest cost. That’s why I think we’re going to be very cautious in terms of whether we’ll have fans in the stands. We talked about if we do, it’s going to be capacity probably a maximum of 12,000. Obviously, that’s a fairly small percentage of an 82,000-seat stadium. There’s a lot at stake and understand what Packer home games mean to the community, to local businesses. But this is unprecedented, unchartered waters for all of us. We wanted to make sure that we do things as safe as possible. The last thing we would want to contribute to some type of outbreak or super-spreader event.”
Green Bay long has had one of the best home-field advantages in the NFL. The Packers went 7-1 at Lambeau Field last season, plus beat Seattle in the playoffs. Dating to 2009, Green Bay’s home winning percentage of .773 is second only to New England in the NFL.
Any home success, at least to start the season, will be seen by fans only on TV.
“That seems really strange to think about. It would feel very different,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said on Monday. “I would guess that that would mean we’d use some live cadence for 16 games, which would mean more opportunities for some free plays possibly. It’ll be strange to play if that’s the case, to play in some of these venues that over the years have been really, really loud. You’re talking about the advantage that Seattle has with their crowd, New Orleans, Minnesota, Atlanta, Indy, some of these domes that are really, really tough places to play; Kansas City with their incredible outdoor crowd.
“It’s really going to be interesting to see how that affects those road teams going into those environments. Us, as well, starting the season in Minnesota. How it affects the communication, if they’re allowed to pump in noise or music or who knows. That’s kind of one of those variables that will be interesting. I can say personally it will be very, very strange and sad to not see a full Lambeau every Sunday at home. That’s going to be a little bit weird.”