There’s nothing like the roar of a packed stadium, as fans across the country come together to revel in victory and commiserate in defeat alongside their favorite sports teams. But the notion of crowded stands seems like a far cry from reality in 2020. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, stadiums around the country have dramatically altered their approach to cleaning and disinfection, and in the process left fans wondering: what will it take to make a return to “cheering-as-usual” a reality?
At our company, facilities services provider, ABM Industries, we’ve found that it’s all about safety that is seen—fans, coaches, and players alike should be able to see evidence of cleaning and disinfection practices to feel confident to return amid the pandemic. Here’s a run-down of best practices for facilities services in this unprecedented time, alongside key considerations for occupants returning to stadiums and arenas.
Ask the experts in facilities services to referee
With the onset of the global health crisis ushered in by the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been no shortage of virus remediation claims. With products and procedures hitting the market at breakneck speed, false promises are rampant. That’s why it’s especially important for organizations to partner with facilities solutions providers that have the resources and expertise to vet products and procedures, examine the science and results, and invest in the development and delivery of meaningful disinfection solutions.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, ABM has established the Expert Advisory Council in partnership with leading infectious disease experts and industrial hygienists. Based on the input of this diverse group, ABM designed its EnhancedClean program—a three-step approach that delivers healthy spaces through disinfection specialists and expert-backed processes. Our council of experts advises us regularly, guiding the development of our overall program, disinfection processes, and training materials. And because ABM has the resources to invest in the right processes, supplies, training, and communication, the EnhancedClean program is guiding our sports and entertainment clients in best practices to prevent the spread of disease and return to normal operations as safely as possible.
Widespread disinfection is a homerun
Stadiums and arenas come with their own unique challenges when it comes to health and safety. With widespread areas to cover and frequent high-touchpoint surfaces throughout the space, it’s important to leverage innovative tools in cleaning and disinfection. ABM utilizes electrostatic sprayers (ESS) throughout stadiums and arenas. We recommend adding electrostatic spraying at regular intervals when occupants have left the facility, perhaps at night or over the weekend. This is a broader service that covers more areas of the facility to ensure a deep disinfection that will make building occupants feel safe. ESS is a more efficient way to disinfect large areas after concentrating mostly on high touch surfaces during the day when the buildings are occupied. Additional services appreciated by fans seeking validation of disinfection are evidence-based testing.
Spot the janitor
The players on the field better not be the only ones in uniform! The days of janitorial staff operating “behind the scenes” in stadiums are behind us forever. Now, these spaces must demonstrate that they are doing everything they can to safeguard the health of fans. Especially when it comes to high-touch surfaces like door handles, railings, seats, and arm rests, comprehensive disinfection means that you should be able to see facilities solutions experts in action on your next time in the stands. Janitorial staff should have a visible presence in the sports and entertainment experience. While techniques such as electrostatic spraying are important investments that tend to take place after-hours when occupants leave a facility, there are plenty of disinfection practices and products that are instrumental in preventing the spread of disease when undertaken in high-traffic times and places.
Signage is an investment we can all root for
Seeing is believing — signage that encourages social distancing and good hygiene practices, in addition to informing fans of the disinfection and cleaning procedures in place, goes a long way towards providing a sense of safety and peace of mind. For fans, coaches, and players alike, the sports and entertainment industry needs to have a strong story to tell around cleaning and disinfection in order to restore participation from spectators. Signage can act as a “proof point,” to signal this priority to all who engage with your brand. Once there is a robust plan in place to keep stadiums and arenas as healthy and clean as possible, showing it off with signage is the best next step.
While the pandemic has undoubtedly uprooted sports seasons and forced franchises across the country to adapt, one thing is for certain—the loyalty of fans has stood the test of time, and the public is sure to be clamoring to retake their places in the stands when it is safe to do so. The global health crisis has had a lasting impact on the way we think about gathering in crowds and visiting public spaces. Stadiums and arenas must adapt to meet these shifting expectations and ensure these spaces are kept as healthy and safe as possible. These cleaning and disinfection tactics are the best first step to restore peace of mind and limit the spread of pathogens, so we can go back to donning face paint over masks, starting the wave, and cheering our favorite sports teams on to victory in 2021 and beyond.