CASPER — If everything goes according to plan, Wyoming will play its home football games inside a full War Memorial Stadium this fall.
UW is planning to return to full capacity for the 2021 season, UW athletic director Tom Burman told the Star-Tribune. Burman also said fans, including students, won’t be required to be vaccinated in order to attend games.
“It puts a smile on my face. It’s not just about money. It’s about the experience,” Burman said. “I watched the PGA Championship the other day and I watched people following Phil (Mickelson) and I thought, ‘That’s what it’s all about.’ If we don’t return to that, I worry about the future of our sports. It’s not as appealing when there aren’t fans there.”
During the Cowboys’ pandemic-shortened season last fall, home attendance was initially capped at 7,000. That number was eventually reduced to 5,000, or 17.1% of the stadium’s 29,181-seat capacity.
UW worked in conjunction with the Wyoming Department of Health to come up with those attendance figures based on the prevalence of COVID-19 locally at the time. Burman said the attendance plan for the fall could change depending on the data between now and then, but he said he’s not expecting that to be the case.
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Wyoming has steadily decreased since the start of the year, though the number of hospitalizations related to the novel coronavirus has increased over the last two months. The state lifted its mask mandate in March, and UW is no longer requiring people on campus to wear masks or socially distance following state approval to end those public health restrictions.
As of early this week, UW had sold 7,615 season tickets in anticipation of being at full capacity for the upcoming season, which Burman said is slightly ahead of where season ticket sales were at this time in 2019. Burman said the goal is to sell about 8,500 season tickets.
If UW does end up allowing full capacity for its Sept. 4 opener against Montana State, it would be the first regular-season game since the Cowboys’ home finale against Colorado State on Nov. 22, 2019, with no limits on attendance.
“Right now, everything is in go-forward mentality,” Burman said. “Obviously everything is contingent on the status of COVID over the summer. How things work for (Cheyenne) Frontier Days. If there’s anything they learn from that, then we’ll probably adjust accordingly. But we’re selling tickets and moving forward as if we’re going to have full crowds.”
As for the attendance plan next season for men’s and women’s basketball games at the Arena-Auditorium, Burman said that could be a trickier proposition given it’s an indoor venue. But he said the school is selling those season tickets in anticipation of the 11,612-seat arena also returning to maximum capacity after having to limit attendance there last season, too.
“We intend to go back to normal with all of our attendance,” Burman said.