What do the Broncos and Colorado Ballet have in common? Thousands of empty seats, and campaigns to fill them

Dancer Melissa Zoebisch performs as Dew Drop in Colorado Ballet’s ‘The Nutcracker’. (Photo by Michael Watson, provided by Colorado Ballet)

The specter of cultural ruin that haunts every public location this year is showing little sign of dissolution. But instead, nonprofit arts and charities are asking us to envision something else – from sports stadiums to historic theaters and churches – to fill places in the meantime.

“We had over 1,200 canceled events in the spring and that number has more than doubled since then,” said Ashleigh Alcorn of Compassion International, a Colorado Springs-based Christian charity that sponsors children around the world through local churches. “We were able to identify about 70,000 children who would not be funded from that gap, as Compassion relies heavily on sponsorship of sporting events, concerts and churches.”

Seventy thousand is also the average number of seats in an NFL stadium, so Compassion – which has a long history of celebrity sports support – made it the theme of their “Fill the Stadium” campaign.

Professional athletes such as Dakota Dozier (Minnesota Vikings), Nick Foles (Chicago Bears), Chris Davis (Baltimore Orioles), Devin and Jason McCourty (New England Patriots), and others jumped in to help and donated hundreds of thousands of their own and challenging dollars fans to match them.

Their goal: “That fans who would normally have spent money on professional sports this year – but couldn’t – choose to support underprivileged children and their families.” Compassion is partnering with local churches in countries around the world to provide essential nutrition, medical care and support to children and their families, and the pandemic has only made the need worse, Alcorn said. With churches closed, all aid must now be delivered to individual homes.

“When I hear the number 70,000, it’s a big number,” Alyssa Naeher, goalkeeper for the US women’s national soccer team, said in a statement. “For me I compare that to a specific event of playing the World Cup Final in Lyonnais last summer in a sold out stadium. It was energetic. It was loud. And it was an experience that people chose. “

If you replace kids in that environment, the magnitude of the need becomes apparent, Naeher said. That’s why she challenges American youth football clubs to donate to charity.

Naeher is just the latest sports star to sign up to “Fill the Stadium,” which has been made public in recent weeks. A ‘silent phase’, in which Compassion International contacted major donors directly, began in April.

To date, the campaign has filled approximately 16,500 NFL stadium seats.

A Rolling Stones banner hangs on the northeast side of Broncos Stadium in Mile High.
A Rolling Stones banner hangs on the northeast side of Broncos Stadium on Mile High, as it was called in 2019. The Denver Broncos’ home has been largely vacant this year due to the coronavirus pandemic restrictions. (Eric Lutzens, Denver Post file)

“The average cost of an NFL game for a family of four – with basic seats, hot dogs, parking, drinks, and a program – is $ 541,” said Alcorn, Compassion International’s relationship manager for pro athlete partnerships. “That could mean a whole year for some of our families. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with going to sporting events, but we can’t this year. So what do you do with that money you normally spend on a Broncos game? “

Another successful, albeit financially more modest, campaign is ‘Fill the Theater’. The Colorado Ballet campaign, announced this week, appears to fill almost every seat at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, rather than the “Nutcracker” performances during the holiday season (about 2,225 seats per show).

With all 28 of the show’s typically sold-out performances canceled this year – and lost an estimated $ 3 million in related revenue – Colorado Ballet has essentially pirouetted from a performing arts company to a fundraising group this year, said Adam Sexton, general manager. of development.

What do the Broncos and Colorado Ballet have in common? Thousands of empty seats, and campaigns to fill them
Mackenzie Dessens, one of the dancers who starred in Colorado Ballet’s 2019 production of “The Nutcracker.” Rocky Mountain PBS will air the program six times for the first time this year, from Thanksgiving through Christmas. Colorado Ballet hopes it will reach new audiences and raise more money. (Photo by Michael Watson, provided by Colorado Ballet)

In the meantime, the nonprofit, which has been forced to fire workers and leave dancers, plans to honor its contracts when 2021 begins, meaning it will have to pay dancers. It has gotten some help: A couple who wished to remain anonymous has pledged a matching grant of $ 500,000 (matching donations, two-for-one, up to $ 250,000) to the ballet’s Relief & Recovery Fund, which has since Netted 580 individual donations from donors. announced the first week of October.

“Two thousand individual gifts is a huge number to shoot up, nearly four times that,” Sexton said of “Fill the Theater,” which has not set a price per seat for its virtual campaign to wrap the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. “We have about 58,000 people who come to watch ‘The Nutcracker’ every year, and our ‘Nutcracker’ will premiere on Thanksgiving on Rocky Mountain PBS with fundraising information, so we’re hoping to reach some of those people – even if they spend half or a quarter of their money attending the show. “

“We can’t even imagine it scraping the surface of what we’re losing in ticket sales,” added Sexton, as ‘The Nutcracker’ accounts for 50% of Colorado Ballet’s annual ticket sales. “But that number – 2,020 tickets – makes the people who would otherwise be there more tangible.”

Read more about the programs and donate on fillthestadium.com and coloradoballet.org.

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What do the Broncos and Colorado Ballet have in common? Thousands of empty seats, and campaigns to fill them