As health conditions continue to improve across the country, the NFL is operating optimistically and making contingency plans in case they’re allowed to have full stadiums.
During the first year of the coronavirus pandemic, attendance at NFL games was severely constricted with the Dallas Cowboys ranking first in average attendance (28,187) and overall attendance (197,313).
Taking their cue from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and other league officials as vaccination rates rise nationally, the Texans are hoping to be at full capacity at NRG Stadium. The Texans had an average of just 12,400 at games last season, 17.2 percent of their 72,220 full capacity, and a total overall attendance of 86,800 for the season, to rank fifth in the NFL in both categories behind the Cowboys, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jacksonville Jaguars and Kansas City Chiefs.
So, the Texans are aggressively selling tickets with the goal of selling out every game on a home schedule that includes games against the Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans, New England Patriots, New York Jets, Seattle Seahawks, Los Angeles Chargers, Los Angeles Chargers and Carolina Panthers.
“That’s our hope,” said new Texans team president Greg Grissom, promoted this offseason as the replacement for former team president Jamey Rootes, during a charity golf event at the River Oaks Country Club. “That’s our intention right now. We’re working with that mindset and the NFL’s working with that mindset in all the venues. We’re just watching the other teams in towns and the other decisions that they make and how we can work with that. We feel like by the time we get to August that we’ll be in a position to do that, and if for some reason we aren’t and there’s a reason not to, then we’ll adjust our plan, just like we did last year.
“I think the first goal we have is to just navigate this transition back into getting full fans in the stadium. We’re focused on doing that. That’s what we want. That’s our hope is and desire. We want to do it as safely as we possibly can. We’re working on getting our employees back in the office and working. There’s a lot of fun things down the road, but I think we’re short-term focused and making sure we do the right things to make sure we have a successful 2021 season.”
The full 17-game NFL regular-season schedule will be officially announced Wednesday night. A year ago, the NFL hosted 1.2 million fans.
“All of us in the NFL want to see every one of our fans back,” Goodell said this spring. “Football is simply not the same without the fans and we expect to have full stadiums in the 2021 season.”
Two seasons ago, the NFL hosted more than 16 million fans. With the pace of vaccination on the uptick and government officials start to relax restrictions on large gatherings, the league and the Texans are remaining upbeat about their prospects of having packed stadiums again as they rebuild their roster following a 4-12 season under the direction of new general manager Nick Caserio and coach David Culley.
“On the business side, we expect to not miss a beat,” Texans chairman and chief executive officer Cal McNair said. “We’ll be back. The league and a lot of other teams expect it’ll take two years to recover from the virus. So, that’s kind of in the back of our mind, but that’ll take care of itself. We’re excited to get the fans back in the stadium. We’re having a lot of great news on season tickets and all that kind of stuff rolling in. All of that’s going really well.
“It’s hard to predict how your season will go. Sometimes a team you’re playing will be on a hot streak and sometimes a ball will not bounce your way, but sometimes it will. We’ll go out expecting to win every game, and we’ll play that way. We’ll play hard as a team. I expect them to play hard, to play fundamental, to make us proud and we’ll take whatever wins come our way.”
Aaron Wilson has covered the NFL for 20 years. He's on Twitter: @AaronWilson_NFL and Instagram: @aaronwilson7128.