A recent survey shows that over half of U.S. sports fans are now comfortable returning to in-person events, a pandemic-era high.
However, not all fans feel the same way. Some are ready for a full return to normal, and some are more hesitant.
Sports and entertainment executives must work to reach fans across this spectrum as mass spectator events return.
IIFX’s recently published guide, Return to Work, Play, and Spectate, outlines in great detail five key steps to doing just that, followed by two steps related to the financial rebound that should follow a successful reopening. These steps were created through the collaboration of more than 90 sports and entertainment industry leaders and medical and business experts. Here is a summary of those five steps to reopening sports and entertainment venues.
Source: IIFX guide
Review current operations plans in the context of health, safety and security. Guidance from local health authorities can dictate reopening. In the U.S., the CDC’s Covid-19 data tracker gives national, state, and county information, including vaccination rates, that may affect your operational planning..
Reassure staff, fans, talent, and the community that venue leadership, staff, and vendors have implemented appropriate measures to protect the health, safety, and security of all those who enter the stadium.
Even as more fans feel comfortable returning to in-person events, venues must still keep health and safety in mind to win back a broader segment of fans. For example, in Major League Baseball, the Philadelphia Phillies and Baltimore Orioles are both scaling up to full capacity. The Phillies are offering socially distanced seating pods, and the Orioles are offering free voluntary Covid tests to fans. These measures can help teams reach more risk-averse spectators while still offering a more normal atmosphere.
Ready your event operations plans for renewed business operations. This includes people, processes ,and technologies to provide and assure health, safety, security, and service. Build relationships with public health authorities to gain their buy-in early in the planning process.
Address both the physical and mental health needs of staff, keeping in mind that health needs may not always be visible.
Meet the work-related needs of staff as well. Many venues have been operating at reduced capacity since March of 2020 – and even with no fans for a time. Thus, venue staff can experience “skill atrophy.” Help staff adjust to working under Covid conditions and readjust to working events with large crowds.
Then, return to full stadium capacity once conditions permit. Local conditions and federal and local health directors will affect all reopening decisions. Many U.S. teams are in this phase – or have already returned to full capacity.
Finally, recover from losses incurred during lockdown and reduced-capacity operations and grow beyond where you were in January 2020.
While many teams and organisations have reopened their venues, they have suffered financial losses and must now re-engage their patrons. They must remember that sports and entertainment events are now each a 360º journey that begins in the homes of talent, staff, and fans.
Polling in the IIFX Return to Work, Play and Spectate guide on issues like food service can help sports and entertainment organisations create a “fan-centric” experience.
Additionally, Major and Minor League baseball clubs alike are rolling out new promotions, delayed Opening Day festivities, improved concessions and more to bring fans back to the ballpark.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to welcoming fans back to venues. Every state and locality have unique circumstances that may include very specific health, safety, security, and service policies. However, helping fans both be and feel safe and providing an improved, innovative experience when they return will help organisations re-engage existing fans and even make new ones.