empty stadium

Reopening your sporting venue during COVID-19

In Sports Events by Kat RembackiLeave a Comment

The roar of the crowd on game day. We can’t wait to experience the energy and excitement of live sports again. There’s nothing else like it. 

Is your team or league ready for next season?

We’re living in a new normal, and it can be tough to tell what “ready” looks like, even for experienced GMs and owners. We’re here to help you prepare for openings while keeping your team and your fans safe. Read on for our step-by-step guide including:

  1. Physical Distancing
  2. Health Protocols
  3. Fan Communications

First: Do your research

The first thing you should do now to prepare for reopening is to consult with your local government’s health and safety departments about what requirements are needed to consider reopening. The safety of your staff and guests should come first.

The CDC and the White House have released national guidelines, but every state has its own rules and regulations. These can vary by the city or county level as well, so it’s important to make sure that your event adheres to the requirements in your individual location. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce regularly updates a map with links to individual state’s reopening plans as well as some other useful resources. 

These regulations should serve as the minimum standard you set for your own event. Be sure to consider the following issues and include protocols for each in your plan:

  1. Infrastructure and Supplies
    1. Physical distancing or space limitations
    2. Hand-washing or sanitizing stations
    3. Personal protective equipment for players, staff, and volunteers
  2. Operational Elements
    1. Revised seating capacity, entry procedures, and policy changes
    2. Health screenings for fans, players, staff, and volunteers
    3. Training your team on the new protocols
    4. Communicating with fans
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Plan for physical distancing in your venue

For the foreseeable future, most sporting events will need to require or at least encourage social distancing measures, meaning fans must stay at least six feet away from others who are not in their immediate household.

Reducing the total number of fans at your game will help, but that’s just the first step. 

Think about areas in your venue where fans typically congregate. Queues for concessions and restrooms are obvious targets. Consider whether you’ll need to block off additional queue line space or add physical barriers or floor marketings to help guests social distance. 

Contactless Check-ins and Payments

Did you know? Your Passage account can help you control the crowd flow at your games. Here are some strategies you can use to make it easier for your fans and on yourself. 

If you’re using Passage as your ticketing partner, you can scan fans in with zero contact. No paper tickets. No touching. Here’s how:

  1. Ask fans to display their ticket code on their mobile device. They can even do this from behind a plexiglass partition if you choose. 
  2. Hold your device over theirs and tap the viewfinder, which will display a green checkmark to let you know the ticket is valid. 
  3. Remember you can also look fans up by name using our Guest List mode, and check them in by toggling the button next to their name in the app. This can be useful if you have a physical barrier set up between staff and fans that prevents you from scanning a ticket. 

In-person transactions can also be contactless with your Passage Manager app. We recommend using the $49 contactless + EMV bluetooth reader which accepts both EMV and Android / Samsung / Apple Pay transactions. Your fans can purchase merchandise, concessions, and in-stadium upgrades right from their mobile devices without ever taking our their credit cards or touching a payment terminal.

Of course, you can still accept more traditional forms of payment with the app as well. Click here for details about how to accept swiped, chipped, or tap-to-pay transactions at your games.

Assigned seating

If your venue previously used a general admission ticket type, now is the type to upgrade to assigned seating. Allowing fans to select their seats in advance can help ensure they maintain physical distancing at your games. With Passage, assigned seating is simple to customizable for your specific venue, and we’ve introduced a brand new option to help keep unfamiliar guests separated: social distance seat selection.

Social Distance Seat Selection

Our newest feature helps you maximize attendance while respecting social distancing guidelines. Here’s how it works:

When the ticket buyer clicks on an available seat, immediately a number of other seats around it become unavailable, because of social distancing rules. You have the flexibility to determine the rules on how social distancing applies to your venue. 

social distance seat selection

The ticket buyer can select up to a predefined number of adjacent seats (e.g. so their family can sit together) depending on the rules you have set up for your venue.

All of this in real-time, in an interactive, dynamic way. Social distance seat selection is a great way to show to all parties involved that your team or league is complying with social distancing rules. 

Interested in setting up social distance seat selection for your venue? Set up a call with our support team. We’d love to help!

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Add a virtual option NOW

Dramatically reducing the number of fans in your venue will no doubt have a negative impact on your bottom line. Many teams are searching for ways to make up the revenue they project losing (or have already lost) due to COVID-19. 

One way you can mitigate the impact of reduced crowds is by incorporating virtual access into your in-person games. Adding a ticketed virtual livestream of your event can boost your revenue and allow guests

  • Who are immunocompromised to attend without health risks;
  • Who don’t yet feel comfortable attending an in-person event to participate;
  • Who live far away to attend from their home state.

With Passage, virtual access is secured, so only fans who have purchased a virtual ticket will be able to view your game’s livestream from their device. You can use any streaming service to create your live feed, including Vimeo, Twitch, YouTube, or the Passage livestream platform. 

Consider offering a discounted rate for virtual-only access, or you could even make the event free and accept tips or donations with our donate widget. Virtual access can be bundled with in-person access, allowing your fans to watch replays of the game from home and increasing the value of your tickets. 

Why not just go live on social media?

Livestreaming without secured access means you’re missing out on valuable customer data and hindering your ability to remarket to your fans. With Passage, you can still broadcast to multiple streams or make access free, but you’ll get all the fan registrations for your game so you can keep the conversation going after the livestream ends. 

Learn more about virtual events here or get tips on adding virtual access to your in-person event here

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Health Protocols

Think through the operational elements, infrastructure, and supplies you’ll need to adjust or change to accommodate COVID-19 prevention. Start sourcing supplies like sanitation stations, masks, gloves, and PPE right away: it will take time for those orders to be filled, and you can’t open your doors without them. 

Next, take on your operational elements. How will you handle: 

  • Limited capacities and physical distancing
  • Checking people in
  • Signage
  • Updating your website
  • Revised hours, attraction availability, changes to party bookings

One of the most common pieces of feedback we’re hearing from our clients is confusion about the “rules”. Guests are uncertain whether they need to wear a mask, how to queue up when they arrive, or what preparations they may need to complete in advance of visiting your venue. The fact that every state (and even many cities) has its own set of regulations doesn’t help. 

Take every opportunity to remind guests of your protocols, including physical distancing, so they can be prepared and feel comfortable enjoying the game as they planned. 

Cleaning and disinfecting

Everyone is re-doubling their cleaning efforts these days. We’re washing our hands like we’re scrubbing in for surgery. We carry hand-sanitizer with us at all times. 

Your fans will expect you to be extra diligent when it comes to cleaning and sanitizing your venue, too. Research your local requirements, and establish a cleaning plan that your staff can stick to throughout your event. This might include wiping down high-touch surfaces at regular intervals, sanitizing certain equipment in between each guest, and requiring staff to wear gloves and/or facial coverings in addition to regular handwashing. Some venues are investing in hand-washing stations or touch-free sanitizer dispensers in key locations for guest use. 

Maybe you already do some (or all) of those things. That’s great! Be sure to let your fans know what precautions you’re taking to help them – and your team – prevent the spread of germs. 

If your venue provides concessions, take into consideration which items could be potential hotspots for a virus to spread. You may decide it’s safer to switch to one-time-use or digital menus, disposable cutlery, or remove shared condiment stations, for example. 

Screening employees and guests

Your state may already require some kind of screening for sports teams, such as temperature checks or verbal confirmation of symptoms, prior to an employee’s daily shifts. Depending on your situation, screening staff and players may be sufficient, or you may want to consider screening your fans prior to entering your venue as well. This may be controversial in some areas, but remember that the health and safety of your team and fans is the highest priority. 

Do I need to invest in temperature scans?

Fever is one of the telltale symptoms of COVID-19, so a temperature scan may help flag individuals who might have the illness before they enter your event. It won’t identify asymptomatic cases, but refusing entry to those with a high temperature can help prevent the spread of disease at your venue and reassure fans that it is safe to visit. 

Handheld infrared spot thermometers are one of the noninvasive tools available to quickly and efficiently scan guests at the entrance (FDA approved models retail for about $150). These need to be held a few inches from each guest’s forehead, so they do require your staff to be in close proximity to fans. Face coverings or personal protective equipment can help mitigate those risks if you choose to implement temperature scans. 

Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to scan fan or team/employee temperatures is yours to make. Be sure to consult your local regulations to determine what is acceptable in your area, and you could even send out a survey to fans who have attended your games in the past to gauge how they would respond to a noninvasive scan prior to entry. 

What happens if a fan fails the screening?

If you decide you need to refuse entry to a fan for health & safety reasons, remember to do so with caution and compassion. Give your team extra training on how to handle these challenging situations. Update your refund policy to include contingencies for fans who are turned away because they have a fever or visible symptoms. Alternatives to a refund can include:

  1. Allowing fans to reschedule their visit for a later date. 
  2. Giving fans a credit to use on a future event ticket.
  3. Allowing fans to transfer their ticket to a friend. 

Make sure you’re providing fans with information well in advance so they know what to expect, and send reminders in the days leading up to your event to help them prepare. Simple, friendly signs help guests meet your expectations and keep everyone safe.

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Start communicating with fans NOW

Your fans will return when they feel comfortable, not just because things have reopened. It’s our job to help them feel safe and at-ease. This starts with communication: keep your fans informed on your reopening plans and what they can expect when they visit your event. Are you implementing player health screenings? Doing extra cleaning? Your efforts only count if fans know about them so they feel comfortable attending games. 

You should also include your expectations for fans: How should they queue up when they arrive? Will they be required to wear masks? Let them know in advance, so they have time to mentally prepare and secure any supplies they might need before the event. 

These communications don’t have to be a boring list of rules; it’s an opportunity for you to re-energize your fans and build faith that your venue is a safe place to enjoy a game. 

Make your website home base for information

Communicate your new procedures in as many places as you possibly can, but make your website home base for all the details. Place information about reopening prominently on your homepage, or display a popup when guests land on your site. You could even link to a dedicated page within your website that has all the details guests need to know.

Share the information on other channels such as social media. Blast a message or two to your email list. The more informed fans feel, the more comfortable they will be attending your event. 

Put a positive spin on the message

Look, gamedays are going to be a bit different this year. Fans won’t be able to experience the game exactly as they have before, and we need to be honest with them about the changes. But you can put a positive spin on your message by focusing on what fans CAN do instead of what they CAN’T do, or what amenities are available instead of which ones are not. Be clear but positive in your communications, and remember that fans are coming to your games because they love the sport and want to support your team.

Create reminders throughout your venue

Don’t forget about on-site communications. Consider adding some physical signage to your venue, so guests who may have missed (or just forgotten about) your new procedures can be informed when they arrive. Include your social distancing and sanitizing requirements as well as your mask policy to reinforce information for guests and help their visit go smoothly. 

How to handle fans who don’t follow the rules

The more you can communicate the new procedures with guests, the more comfortable guests will be with the “new normal”. However, there may still be some guests who don’t want to follow the rules, or who forget. Sometimes when we’re having fun, we forget to maintain physical distancing. 

How do you handle those situations?

The skills for enforcing these policies are the same as the ones you use to keep fans in organized lines while they wait for concessions, for example, or to keep things from getting too rowdy in the family section.  

You can translate those same skills to train your team to enforce social distancing as well. It’s a good opportunity to re-train your staff on all health & safety protocols. Find the right balance between over-enforcing: you still want fans to have fun, and there will inevitably be some minor errors as we all adjust to the new rules.

Need help setting up assigned seating or other features for your team? Reach out to our support team. We’re here for you!

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