Can Theme Parks Help Predict the Youth Sports Rebound?

13 May, 2020

By: Michael Popke

IAAPA, the global association for the attractions industry, recently unveiled its Online Member COVID-19 Resource Center — featuring such critical resources as webinars, a crisis communications template, a security advisory program, guidelines for speaking with the media and a document titled “Reopening Guidance: Considerations for the Attractions Industry.”

And it could just give us a clue as to how and where youth sports might be opening.After all, consider this: many youth sports facilities have grown up around areas that attract kids. So the IAAPA doc bears scrutiny.

That 36-page document was developed in partnership with IAAPA members and attractions operators from around the world, and features health-related guidance from government agencies and medical professionals.

“This free global resource outlines principles and approaches to consider as you prepare to reopen once local government officials in your area remove ‘stay-at-home’ orders, allow non-essential businesses to reopen, and say it’s safe for citizens to move around their community,” IAAPA chief executive officer Hal McEvoy wrote in a newsletter to members, according to, which covers the attractions industry.

Among the guidelines IAAPA recommends:

• Allow healthy people to enjoy the facility and encourage the use of masks or other face coverings for all guests and staff.

• Provide the means to wash hands frequently.

• Reduce touch areas where possible, and frequently sanitize high-touch surfaces.

• Protect employees in various ways — including barriers, protective coverings and distancing.

• Communicate with employees and guests on how to prevent the spread of germs.

• Establish a plan of action in the event an employee or guest becomes ill on site.

In Orlando, Disney World and Universal Orlando are providing a peek at what a reopening strategy might look like for a variety of facilities in which large crowds of people gather and which certainly benefit from the presence of kids attending tournaments nearby.

The Orange County Economic Task Force issued preliminary guidelines in late April regarding a phased reopening approach for the parks, which have been shut down since mid-March.

According to, which reports on news for Hollywood insiders:

Among the initial recommendations, larger theme parks will operate at 50 percent capacity during a Phase 1 period. That could increase to 75 percent capacity in Phase 2. Additionally, all employees will be required to wear facemasks; there will be touchless hand sanitizer at each ticketing entry and turnstile, and at each ride/attraction entry and exit; there will be temperature checks for staff prior to their shifts; as well as a regular wipe-down of all railing[s] and surfaces. Any staff member age 65 and above will be encouraged to stay home. … To help with social distancing, tape markings of six feet apart could be placed in the attraction and ride queues. (which covers themed entertainment) noted earlier in April that Universal Orlando sent a survey to its annual passholders asking their opinions about potential precautions they would be willing to accept upon returning to the park. A Twitter thread features the questions, which revealed precautions under consideration that ranged from touch-free payment options to the suspension of parades and night-time gatherings to requiring staff members to wipe down seats between rides. Some of the precautions appear to have made the cut in the preliminary guidelines.

Officials have not revealed a target date for reopening Disney World and Universal Orlando, but estimates range from June to sometime in 2021.

“We are obviously thinking a lot about when and how to reopen. We’ve got multiple teams working on a number of different scenarios,” John Sprouls, the chief administrative officer for Universal Orlando Resort, said April 27 during meetings of Gov. Ron DeSantis’s Re-Open Florida Task Force, according to the Associated Press.

In response to the coronavirus epidemic, Disney World furloughed about 43,000 unionized employees in mid-April. Disney parks worldwide closed in mid-March; it is likely that as attractions return, some of those workers will be rehired.

But it’s not just crowds that attractions need to be concerned about, and IAAPA has been working to close that loop as well. The attractions resource center also includes links to articles about planning ahead for supply chain interruptions and the importance of temperature screening.

These resources will be updated regularly, according to IAAPA officials, as the organization gathers and refines additional information.

High school and youth football might be delayed, but not for the reason you think. Helmet inspections, mandated nationwide in order for teams to play, could be in jeopardy because the companies that inspect the helmets, Riddell and Schutt, are currently shut down. And when they do come back, it’s likely their resources will go to college ball first.


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