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Western Michigan football preparing for full capacity at Waldo Stadium in 2021

MLive - Jackson logo MLive - Jackson 6/8/2021 Patrick Nothaft, mlive.com
a group of people standing in front of a crowd posing for the camera: Fans watch Western Michigan Broncos opening kickoff against Georgia State Panthers at Waldo Stadium in Kalamazoo, Michigan on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019. © Joel Bissell/Joel Bissell | MLive.com Fans watch Western Michigan Broncos opening kickoff against Georgia State Panthers at Waldo Stadium in Kalamazoo, Michigan on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019.

KALAMAZOO, MI – Between the lack of pregame tailgates and empty student sections, a lot was missing from the coronavirus-shortened 2020 college football season, but the traditions that create a unique atmosphere on campuses across the country every fall Saturday appear to be on their way back.

Western Michigan University announced Monday it plans to eliminate attendance restrictions at Waldo Stadium for the upcoming football season, opening the gates for up to 30,200 spectators beginning with the Broncos’ 5 p.m. home opener against Illinois State Saturday, Sept. 11.

Season tickets are on sale now and can be purchased at WMUBroncos.com/tickets or by calling 888-4-WMU-TIX.

A WMU press release stated the athletic department will continue to operate under all policies established by the university, as well as state and local authorities.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services lifted restrictions on outdoor gathering sizes on June 1, and restrictions on indoor gathering sizes are set to expire on July 1.

WMU kicks off its season with a noon contest against Michigan on Saturday, Sept. 4, then travels to Pitt in Week 3 for a noon kickoff, before wrapping up its nonconference slate by hosting San Jose State on Saturday, Sept. 25 at a time to be determined.

WMU hosts four Mid-American Conference opponents in 2021, beginning with Ball State on Saturday, Oct. 9, followed by the homecoming tilt with Kent State on Saturday Oct. 16, then ending with a pair of mid-week games against rival Central Michigan (Wednesday, Nov. 3) and Akron (Tuesday, Nov. 9).

WMU finished its 2020 conference-only campaign with a 4-2 record and a second-place finish in the MAC West, with its 30-27 season-ending loss to Ball State keeping the Broncos from a MAC Championship game berth.

With the general public barred from attending games at Waldo Stadium last year, WMU played in front of a smattering of players’ families in the stands, but with COVID-19 cases plummeting since mid-April, it appears the in-game atmosphere will be much different in 2021.

WMU averaged 17,937 fans for its home games in 2019, which was down from the 18,293 per kickoff Waldo Stadium held in 2018, but up from the 15,886 the venue averaged in 2017.

During the Broncos’ Cotton Bowl campaign in 2016, average attendance at Waldo Stadium was 23,838.

Throughout its 82-year history, Waldo Stadium has hosted at least 30,000 fans on 14 occasions, with the attendance record of 36,361 set in 2000 during a game against Indiana State.

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