Sports fans may be ready to return, but managing venues and events through and beyond COVID-19 remains a new ballgame. The biggest challenges facing venues revolve around protecting players and spectators, cleaning what you can’t see and reassuring stakeholders. Below are some pandemic-proven best practices to boost returns — and revenues.
Protecting Athletes, Coaches and Staff
Without healthy players, there is no game, no fans and no revenue. And because athletes practically live where they play, locker rooms, weight rooms, meeting rooms, dining rooms and competition areas must maintain the highest levels of cleanliness. First, ensure disinfection products are approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to protect against COVID-19 — very few are “List N” certified such as Monofoil, a hospital-grade cleaner that eliminates nearly every biohazard a player could encounter. Ideally, products should provide protection beyond initial contact. Look for options that offer protection ranging from 48 hours to 60 days after application. In addition to cleaning high-touch surfaces, use products to disinfect laundry and the playing surfaces themselves.
Reducing the risk of exposure to COVID-19 by cleaning and disinfection is an important part of reopening public spaces. Fans are eager to cheer on their favorite teams and players in person. Yet they want reassurance that facilities are safe for return.
Comprehensive, facility-wide precautions must address every aspect of public areas and scientists recommend a layered approach: Start with intensive cleaning, then disinfect. Or go for the one-two punch: Apply a dual-purpose solution with electrostatic sprayers. If treatments are effective for 30 days or more at a time, all the better. Next, check air quality and consider any extra precautions needed to reassure fans depending on the nuances of the event and/or facility.
For example, Super Bowl LV provided kits of hand sanitizers and masks for players and fans to reduce the possibility of a super-spreader event that could have influenced venues re-opening for every sport or event in 2021.
According to the CDC’s latest guidance, COVID-19 spreads more commonly through air particles than surfaces. What good are safety measures and disinfection protocols if heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems move contaminated air through fields of play, sidelines, locker rooms, offices, bathrooms, concourses, concessions, luxury suites and other spaces? Arenas considering multi-million-dollar upgrades or installing new systems should weigh the benefits and limitations.
Nearly every technology available now is based on pre-COVID research and development. And much like drones, units with ultraviolet lighting kill bacteria within range but leave hard-to-reach areas unclean. Options using nanotechnology to disinfect air are the most cost effective and comprehensive. These treatments can provide 30 days of purified air at a fraction of the cost of upfitting or replacing HVAC units.
Minding the Message
Too often, facilities overlook or ignore one of the greatest benefits of disinfection measures — communicating the stadium is a safe place for players to play and fans to attend. Leverage every opportunity to tell internal and external audiences about the extensive measures taken to protect them.
Educate facility staff, teams and athletes. Display “Certified Safe” badges in all protected areas. Place branded hand sanitizing stations in key areas to echo the facility’s support for healthy practices. Let fans see uniformed attendants regularly disinfecting high touchpoint areas as an effective, nonverbal way to instill confidence.
Major League Baseball’s Atlanta Braves produced a short video about its precautions that the team shares online, across social media and in-park before each game. Signage throughout Truist Park also touts safety measures.
Beyond implementing layers of protection at indoor and outdoor facilities and communicating safety practices, University of Georgia Director of Athletics Josh Brooks looks to empower staff, student-athletes and fans. Ideas such as developing Bulldog-branded kits with hand sanitizer, masks, gloves and disinfecting spray can help protect against COIVD-19 as well as flu, colds, strep, stomach virus and more.
“It’s about doing the best job possible to keep Bulldog Nation safe and healthy — together — and not just through COVID,” he said.
Improving the bottom line
How arenas fare in reopening and maintaining safe settings influences far more than an organization’s bottom line. What can businesses learn to navigate office reopenings and create healthier spaces? Which practices benefit fans beyond a ballpark? In more ways than one, the world is watching sports!
Jason Smith, left, and David Kraitzick are founding partners of CleanWell Services, which provides disinfection and sanitation to keep hospitals, sports venues, universities, commercial buildings, restaurants and disaster-relief hubs safe and protected.