Gazette file

The coin is tossed between Palmer Ridge and Pueblo East in the state 3A football championships Dec. 1 at the Neta & Eddie DeRose Thunderbowl at CSU-Pueblo.

The Colorado High School Activities Association announced Wednesday that all seven state football championship games will be held at the Neta and Eddie DeRose ThunderBowl in Pueblo, the first time all state championships will be held at the same site.

The smallest classifications, starting with 6-man and 8-man championships, will be Dec. 3, with 2A and 4A championships Dec. 4. On Dec. 5 CSU-Pueblo will host 1A, 3A and 5A championships.

According to a news release, the CHSAA board of directors unanimously approved the location change Tuesday evening.

"This is an opportunity to showcase all seven levels of football — from schools with 30 students to schools with more than 3,000 — on the same field on the same weekend," said CHSAA assistant commissioner Adam Bright in the release. "This will be a great culminating event to this football season."

According to the variance approved by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, each state championship game will be allotted 1,400 tickets to be split evenly between participating teams.

Tickets will go on sale for all seven games on the Sunday following state semifinals and will be available on a first-come, first served basis. According to Friends of Football president Dan DeRose, schools may have the option to purchase their allotted 700 tickets in bulk and distribute them as they wish. CSU-Pueblo and Friends of Football will work with schools regarding contact tracing and other specifics.

According to the Friends of Football variance document procured by the Gazette, tickets will be sold exclusively online and will collect each purchaser's name, phone number and email address upon registration to communicate any necessary changes or protocols before the event.

The stadium will be split into 10 sections of maximum 175 fans with at least 50 feet separating each section. Each section will have its own concessions and restroom to further limit social exposure to other sections. Seven color-coded entrances will also be used to maintain social distancing.

COVID-19 health screenings will take place at guests’ vehicles upon arrival. Four volunteers per vehicle will conduct one-on-one screenings for each passenger per CDPHE protocols.

Pueblo County is currently in COVID-19 Dial Level Yellow, which permits variances for outdoor events and align with the Friends of Football proposal for attendance capacity on championship weekend. Should the dial move to Level Red, there is a chance the variance could shift to no longer allow spectators at the event, according to Pueblo County Public Health. 

But that shouldn’t affect games played, according to Bright.

“Unless we are told by the state department we are not playing football, we are going to have a state championship game,” Bright said. “Hopefully that’s in Pueblo but if that’s in a parking lot somewhere I bet you my two teams there are going to want to play. We are going to crown a champion if at all possible.”

State football playoffs will begin next week with brackets scheduled to be released by CHSAA on Sunday.

Previous sites for state championship games include Empower Field at Mile High, which typically hosted 4A and 5A championships and Air Force Falcon Stadium, which hosted the 3A championship in 2017. Neta and Eddie DeRose ThunderBowl has been the host site for 2A and 3A title games since 2018.

“We tried everything we could to still be able to host the games this year, and it saddens us that we couldn’t,” said Tom Lawrence, president and CEO of the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame, which has a longstanding contract with CHSAA to host championship games at the stadium. “The biggest thing was the mere cost of the health protocols that the governor put out to have here at Mile High Stadium.”

According to Lawrence, the normal price point for hosting state championships at the stadium requires about 9,000 fans in attendance to break even. He said with the additional cost of health protocols that number would have doubled.

“Even if we could get a variance for 1,700 fans at Mile High it would be totally cost prohibitive,” Lawrence said.