Sports Facilities

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Some Stadiums Reopen, But with Major Changes

21 Jun, 2020

By: Michael Popke
Expect Temperature Screenings, Changes to Business Transactions

As professional sports leagues gradually reveal their return-to-play strategies in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, look for stadium operators to proceed with caution.

Associated Press writer Dave Skretta envisions scenariosin which “fans could have their every move scrutinized by cameras and lasers. There might be nobody in the next seat to high-five after a touchdown. The idea of passing cash to a beer vendor between innings will be a memory. Temperature screenings and medical checks could be mandatory to get in.”

Maybe not selling beer will result in less-crowded restrooms, and perhaps corporate suites will implement lower capacities.

“There’s a wealth of unanticipated casualties … that are going to be part of this, things we all took for granted as part of the live game-day experience,” Nate Appleman, director of the sports, recreation and entertainment practice for Kansas City, Mo.-based architectural firm HOK  told Skretta. “Some things we have yet to fathom but will become painfully clear once we are allowed back into venues and get back to truly human nature, which is to gather and celebrate community.”

On June 3, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive orderallowing sports venues and other businesses in that state to reopen at 50 percent capacity — even as COVID-19 cases continued to spike throughout Texas.

“As anticipated, the new positive cases that we are seeing are largely the result of isolated hot spots in nursing homes, jails and meat packing plants.” Abbott said in a statement. “Thanks to the effectiveness of our Surge Response Teams, we have the ability to contain those hot spots while opening up Texas for business. As we begin Phase III, I ask all Texans and Texas businesses to continue following the standard health protocols and to heed the guidance of our state and federal officials who continue to closely monitor COVID-19. If we remain vigilant, we will continue to mitigate the spread of this virus, protect public health, and get more Texans back to work and their daily activities.”

On the other side of the world, the Chinese Professional Baseball League — which resumed play in early April with no fans in attendance — has gradually relaxed its rules regarding spectators. Beginning June 7, stadiums could be filled up to 50 percent, and fans were only required to wear face masks when they weren’t in their seats, according to The Japan Times. The newspaper notes that Taiwan, with a population of 23 million, has only recorded 433 COVID-19 cases.

The story is much different in the United States, with more than 2 million confirmed cases and nearly 114,000 deaths as of June 10. Which begs the question: Will fans even want to goto baseball games, soccer games and other outdoor sporting events?

“Loyalty and engagement apps, widespread around the major leagues and colleges even before the pandemic, will become even more common and interactive” as teams encourage fans to venture back into their stadiums, according to the AP.

“Fans want that experience to be top-notch, period. That’s why teams are thinking about this,” Britton Stackhouse Miller, senior vice president at Fortress U.S., a developer of engagement and integration systems with clients in European soccer, baseball, the NBA, NFL and NHL, told the AP.

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