Sports arenas

Social distancing may require “necessary renovations” in sports arenas


TDECU Houston Stadium

Slyworks photograph, courtesy of the DLR Group

With the coronavirus pandemic dictating the capacity for social gatherings, a return to the design of the original Major League Baseball stadiums could be in the future, an architect and engineering firm said.

Don Barnum, of the DLR Group, said teams should make “the required and necessary renovations” of sports stadiums to meet social distancing guidelines, at least in the short term.

Barnum, who heads the company’s global sports studio, added that the changes shouldn’t be too expensive. “You just changed them [arenas]; remove the seats, ”he said.

Barnum said the company had had a “variety of conversations” with team owners who inquired about adjusting the provisions for social distancing. The company created renderings using a minor league baseball stadium to analyze the seating arrangement.

The company found that the box-box seats, with four seats six feet apart in all directions from other people in the bowl sections, would meet the distancing rules.

“In the short term, you can handle this by selling tickets to a number of people, identifying their seats and keeping fans away,” said Barnum, who designed the $ 161 million Pinnacle Bank Arena in Nebraska. .

“If that becomes the new standard over two to five years, then I think [teams] would start removing those other seats and making that environment a fixed and permanent environment that creates that separation and distancing, ”he said.

Barnum used the original 1900s versions of Wrigley Field in Chicago and Fenway Park in Boston to provide for the temporary seating arrangement. The backs of the seats then looked like benches with a balustrade that separated people.

“That kind of approach can be found in the way we handle the seat bowl,” Barnum said. “This would allow the teams to control the separation and not affect the lines of sight.”

Seats distancing plan

Source: DLR Group

Supermarket stages

The logistics of entry would be reasonably straightforward. Arena staff should manage access points differently and “count people as they enter”. Teams can distribute arrival times to fans to avoid overloading security staff, as temperature tests could be included, Barnum said.

And with limited capacity, social distancing would have to take care of itself inside arenas. Barnum also suggested adding field walkway directions, tactics that grocery stores are currently using.

Irwin Raij, co-chair of international law firm O’Melveny, sports industry division, said teams should invest in additional contactless options for dealership sales and fan interactions.

“Teams need to start thinking long term about the technologies they can implement, from cleaning staff, to fans, to players entering the building,” said Raij, who accounted for the $ 2.2 billion acquisition. in dollars by billionaire David Tepper of the National Football League Carolina Panthers.

Public concerns

The duration of the Cvoid-19 will have the greatest impact. If the pandemic lasts longer than a year, teams will need to consider permanent additions to arenas, which will affect “improvements and capital investments,” Barnum said.

Raij added that public officials could attempt to impose warrants even on privately funded arenas, as the buildings are for public consumption; therefore, be updated for public safety measures.

“Homeowners don’t live forever; these assets are the assets of communities, ”said Raij.

If local governments deliberate on social distancing laws, renovations like the National Basketball Association’s $ 230 million Phoenix Suns project are now in question as the building is also publicly funded.

The Suns may need to consider an overhaul if social distancing at sporting events is regulated. The team did not make CEO Jason Rowley available for an interview when contacted by CNBC.

Long-term income issues?

After analyzing the stadium spacing in minor leagues, Barnum said capacity estimates were around 17-20% of what stadiums are built to contain, leading to revenue issues.

Sports arenas are being built to capacity, generating enough revenue to offset debt from operations, including payment of staff.

Owners will have to decide whether it is better to operate large facilities or whether such capacity limitations are worth the losses.

“It will be a problem that they will have to face,” said Raij. “And teams are going to have to find alternative ways or generate income outside of in-person gatherings in arenas and stadiums.”

If there is a silver lining, it’s the projection that distancing measures will subside throughout 2021; therefore, any losses due to fanless environments will be short lived.

Still, Raij hinted at long-term investments in arenas that will help fans regain confidence, triggering a pickup in profits.

“Without these [health and safety] improvements; these investments, “it’s going to be difficult to open them up,” Raij said. “Otherwise, it will be a huge strain on income.”


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