Despite no limits on outdoor crowds in Dane Co, venue size could put sports, concerts at less than 20 percent capacity

MADISON, Wis. – While Public Health Madison Dane County’s newest health and safety guidelines linked to the pandemic removed capacities for outdoor crowds, event planners are running into a unique issue.

Under the rule, ‘gatherings’ like sporting events or concerts still need to adhere to social distancing guidelines, spacing groups six feet apart.

At Breese Stevens field, this means what’s normally a 5,000 person capacity would be lucky to seat 1,000. As Forward Madison FC plans a return to play next month, this is a major limiting factor.

While this is a great place to enjoy a soccer game, it was built over 100 years ago and there’s not infinite space,” said Owner Conor Coloia.  “So the limiting factor when it comes to capacity is ultimately the amount of square footage we have here.”

Because of this, Coloia says the team is holding off on fulfilling season ticket orders.

The last thing we want to do is get our fans tickets, have to pull them back, then reseat them all,” he said. “It’s great to get fans back, but the reality of it is if we have 15, 18, 20 percent of our normal attendance, no business can function on (that).”

Coloia says he’s hopeful the next public health order, set to be issued May 5, could change the requirements.

It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of hurry up and wait, right? Everything we’re doing, we’re working with the county to figure out what the orders are going to be when we actually open,” he said. 

The same is true for concert venues, whether they’re holding shows indoors or outdoors. Two concerts planned for Breese Stevens in May will be limited to 1500 of the stadium’s 10,000 capacity size. At smaller venues, the numbers are even smaller.

“At the Majestic Theater, our capacity is 600,” said FPC Live President Matt Gerding.  “When you’re required to create 6 foot distance for all individuals in there, the capacity goes down to about 80 or so, which really isn’t a model for success quite yet.”

Gerding says he’s hopeful by the fall, the restrictions will change.

It’s encouraging to see that type of change, and I think it’s what we’ve been waiting for for a long time now,” he said. “I think the changes are slow and incremental. Just because there’s no restriction for outdoor capacity doesn’t mean we can start putting 8,000 people at Breese Stevens.”