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Future of stadiums, arenas promise high tech, low capacity

by Ace Damon
Future of stadiums, arenas promise high tech, low capacity

KANSAS CITY, MO (AP) – The coronavirus pandemic that has paralyzed the sport for months makes everyone wonder what the games will be like when spectators finally enter. It will almost certainly be different in terms of size and size.

Fans can have all their movements examined by cameras and lasers. Perhaps there is no one on the bench next door after a touchdown. The idea of ​​passing money to a beer vendor between entrees will be a memory. Temperature tests and medical examinations may be mandatory. Virtual tickets will be the norm.

All of which begs the question: will fans be able to enjoy the experience again?

"I think there are a lot of unforeseen casualties that will be part of this, things that we all had as part of a live game day experience," explained Nate Appleman, director of sports, recreation and entertainment. for Kansas City-based architecture firm HOK. "Some things that we still need to understand, but will become painfully clear when we are allowed to return to the places and return to the truly human nature, which is to gather and celebrate the community."

Some leagues are returning with few or no fans, including football in Germany, stock car races in the US, and baseball in Japan. stadium design and infrastructure, that the only thing that may look the same is what happens on the playing field.

The biggest short-term change will be the social distance that has already permeated everyday life. Ticket sales will be limited. Blocked entire sections and lines. Aisle seats left open to prevent fans from climbing the stairs. Fans will have an entry time to avoid crowding at the gates. Queues in bathrooms and concessions will be limited. The congregation in the corridors will no longer be allowed.

"There is the old saying, 'Necessity is the mother of invention.' I would say that we are in a situation of high need now," said Appleman. "There are a lot of really smart people coming up with really cool initiatives that may just be a new way of doing things, and new ones are not always bad. Sometimes change is good. Sometimes we have to adapt."

These plans bring hope and fear: the hope that some fans will be able to see their favorite teams in action and the fear that places that rely heavily on ticket sales will be able to survive.

Mercedes-Benz Stadium, home of the Falcons and Atlanta United, already has cashless systems for goods and concessions. Several professional teams are talking to motion analysis company iinside, whose SafeDistance system uses lasers to map spaces and measure crowd density. At the KeyBank Center in Buffalo, New York, a company called WaitTime uses an app to tell Sabers fans how long they have been queuing at bathrooms and concessions.

It all sounds a little Orwellian – like Big Brother is watching you. The systems dance a fine line between informational and intrusive. But they can also mitigate the threat of spreading a virus, and that can make it all worthwhile.

"We are extrapolating these trends that already exist, and I think we will start in 2025, even if it is only 2020," said Jason Jennings, director of strategy and digital integration for Mortenson's sports and entertainment group, which is finalizing the construction of the new Raiders stadium, worth $ 2.4 billion, in Las Vegas. "The technology will be deployed much more quickly because of the value it has for the fan experience and public health."

Even the way the facilities are cleaned will change. It is no longer enough to have a hose in the seats and sweep the garbage left by the fans. Local giant ASM Global recently announced a new hygiene protocol for its 325 facilities worldwide, noting the importance of following international health recommendations from people like WHO and the CDC.

Few teams of professionals are willing to disclose their complete reopening strategies, be it potential seat layouts or infrastructure updates designed to keep fans safe. This is because the rapidly changing social and political environment, coupled with the unpredictable nature of the virus, made planning difficult.

"In large masses, there is no system that can effectively prevent another person from giving germs to a second individual," said Philip Tierno, clinical professor of pathology at the Grossman School of Medicine at New York University. "If they sneeze, cough or speak directly, or even breathe directly into a person, there is no system that can prevent this."

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AP Sports writers Dave Campbell and Larry Lage contributed to this report.

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