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Empower Field faces pandemic labor shortages too

As crowds return to Empower Field at Mile High, they may bump into slower-than-normal service as the stadium, like many businesses, deals with a labor shortage.

DENVER — As capacity crowds return to Empower Field at Mile High this season, they may bump into slower-than-normal service as the stadium, like so many other businesses, deals with a labor shortage following the pandemic.

The Broncos told 9NEWS this week that the organization warned fans about potential issues before the season started. A spokeswoman for the organization said recent hiring efforts have been successful, though, which is helping speed things up.

During last weekend’s home opener, Brooks O’Hearn stepped into the concourse just as a halftime performance was wrapping up.

“We got in line right as we were looking at the TVs and they were kicking off for the third quarter,” he said. “They were literally blowing the whistle for the end of the third quarter as we were placing our order.”

O’Hearn told 9NEWS the concession stand he went to appeared to be staffed fully and the lines seemed normal length. But he said the service still took longer than expected.

“I try to take it in stride, you know," he said. "It’s the first game I’ve been to in a while."

The Broncos spokeswoman told 9NEWS issues at the home opener last weekend were exacerbated by the Rockies playing a game down the street, which took away some workers.

The concessionaire for the stadium, Aramark, didn’t respond to a 9NEWS request for comment about efforts to hire at the stadium. The company’s website shows several job openings for the stadium, with hourly wages ranging from $14 to $20 for more advanced positions.

“Right now is all the wage war and the question of who’s paying me more,” Kishore Kulkarne, an economics professor at MSU Denver, said.

“I think people are wanting to go back to work, but at a higher wage rate," he said. "Unless you pay them a little bit more than you were paying them before the pandemic, they aren’t going to come back--especially the concession workers, who are not very well paid.”

Kulkarne said hiring workers back is difficult as many other employers like McDonalds and King Soopers are paying much higher starting wages.

“The concession stand owners, they just have to pay more to get them back, because labor is in short supply right now,” Kulkarne said.

Kulkarne estimates it will take about four to six months before the labor shortage evens out.

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Credit: Drew Litton for 9NEWS

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