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Sports Emerges from COVID-19 with New Ways to Keep Spectators Safe: Are You Aware of Them?

Posted By Mary Helen Sprecher, Monday, May 18, 2020
Updated: Tuesday, May 12, 2020

We know that some sports are coming back from COVID-19 (even MLB has noted its plans to start in July) but what we don’t know is exactly how different localities will cope with social distancing guidelines and with rules pertaining to mass gatherings.

What we’ve seen so far, though has been a new industry springing up to keep people safe as they emerge from quarantine. And in short, it’s a Shark Tank-style wonder, with some incredibly creative examples of adaptive reuse.

The Fan in the Plastic Bubble: UnderTheWeather, the maker of plastic pods, is having what you might call “a moment.” The zip-up plastic tents that parents have, in the past, used to watch their kids’ games in wet, windy and/or cold conditions, are finding new popularity as a means of creating personal space in a post-COVID-19 world.

And, when you think about it, it’s pretty brilliant. Right now, as parts of the U.S. try to restart sports, conditions are far from hospitable. In addition to having some record-breaking cold temperatures for May, many areas are still living under social distancing guidelines.

The plastic pods can hold from one to six people (you choose the size), creating a true “plastic bubble” for those who want to avoid others. (This article from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch noted that parents were using them for one of the area’s first youth baseball events in quite some time). Of course, the pods are made of 100 percent plastic so it’s likely they will be useful during cool or rainy times – but not as the weather heats up.

So what else is happening to keep people safe as they emerge from quarantine? Several concepts – with more hitting the market all the time, including…

Drones Being Used to Sanitize Stadiums: It’s a new take on the old crop duster idea. According to an article in Venues Now, U.S. companies including Rantizo Inc. of Iowa City, Iowa,OMI Environmental Solutions of Belle Chasse, Louisiana, and EagleHawk of Buffalo, New York, are offering amphitheaters, arenas, stadiums and other facilities the opportunity to have airborne sprayer drones disinfect and sanitize their facilities.  

All three use sprayed disinfectants and are marketing drones’ ability to sanitize seating areas and other spaces quickly and safely. In fact, work is already in place with a number of venues. Rantizo recently conducted tests at Principal Park, the Des Moines home of the Triple A Pacific Coast League’s Iowa Cubs, and EagleHawk has done the same at Sahlen Field, where the Buffalo Bisons of the Triple-A International League play. 

All three companies say the drones save on labor costs since it removes the need for individuals to go into stadiums and hose down seats with disinfectants. And for jobs that require a quick turnaround, more drones can be employed, getting the venue done in a shorter time.

New Computer Modeling to Show Where Spectators Can be Placed: Maybe you’re in an area where spectators are allowed but only if they sit certain distances away from one another. The Stadium Business noted that 3D Digital Venue has launched a new service to create virtual reconstructions and perform different types of simulations, showing where spectators can sit, given a stadium’s specific configuration.

Putting Fans in the Stands, Even if They Can’t Be There: Of course, if local ordinances are still forbidding mass gatherings completely, there's a way to put fans in the stands, sort of. In Germany, one soccer fan has developed an app that, for a fee, allow fans to upload an image of themselves that will be printed out and placed in the stands to root for their teams. It costs the equivalent of $20, with a portion of the fee going to COVID-19 relief.

While we don't yet know how long quarantine and social distancing restrictions will be in effect, it's interesting to imagine what ASBA's trade show might look like if these products are still on the market and still in demand.

Tags:  3-D modeling  arenas  cardboard spectators  computer modeling  coronavirus  COVID-19  disinfection  social distancing  spectator safety  sports in the age of COVID-19  stadiums 

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Will the Increase in Americans' Exploration of Outdoor Recreation Spaces During COVID-19 Drive a Need for Sports Facility Construction and Maintenance Once Virus Threat Has Ended?

Posted By Mary Helen Sprecher, Monday, April 6, 2020
Updated: Thursday, March 26, 2020

Well, there might be a silver lining to the coronavirus, once it passes and the world’s health has returned – and oddly, it could benefit the sports facility industry.

Despite the fact that a recent study showed that outdoor recreation in the U.S. was down markedly in 2018, many individuals and families are using their quarantine time to explore the great outdoors. In fact, early observations show walking paths, local fishing holes, playgrounds, hiking trails and parks are all seeing an unprecedented uptick in visitors.

Ultimately, that has driven an awareness an awareness of municipal facilities, including local tennis and pickleball courts, basketball courts, volleyball courts (sand and regular) – and plenty of others.

On March 18, the National Park Service announced it would be waiving entrance fees indefinitely (however, according  to SGB Media, that decision came one day after the agency closed several large parks – including Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Everglades, Sequoia, Kings Canyon, Point Reyes the Washington Memorial and the Statue of Liberty – following overcrowding concerns).

We actually already have early indications a trend toward the outdoors was beginning just prior to COVID-19. Georgia became the fifth state to partner with FLW and The Bass Federation (TBF) in offering bass fishing as a sanctioned varsity sport. The change, reported by the Georgia High School Association (GHSA), will go into effect for the 2020-2021 school year.

Another activity seeing a strong uptick is running. Outside Online noted, “As a number of people have already observed in the ominously mono-themed Twittersphere, running is the optimal sport for a time when everyone is encouraged to avoid crowded, enclosed spaces whenever possible.”

And with more people discovering running, it’s likely there will be more teens looking into track & field when quarantine measures are over and students return to school.

All of this activity has the potential to drive an uptick in the need to keep facilities. And while we have no way of knowing when the threat of the virus will pass, we know that China has begun opening some of its tourist attractions, shuttered since January 24. A timeline of the emergence of the virus in China, and its spread across the globe, can be found here. However, those seeking to establish a parallel timeline need to understand that a study published in March indicated that if Chinese authorities had acted three weeks earlier than they did, the number of coronavirus cases could have been reduced by 95 percent and the geographic spread of the virus limited. The timeline clearly demonstrates that China's cover-up and the delay in serious measures to contain the virus lasted about three weeks.

Ultimately, however, the country will emerge from the need for social distancing and from self-isolation and when it does, it will need sports more than ever – not just to watch but to participate in. And that will help drive economic recovery for our industry, as well as others.

Tags:  basketball courts  bass fishing  Bassmaster  coronavirus  COVID-19  FLW  hiking trails  jogging  jogging paths  national parks  outdoor recreation  pickleball courts  recreational sports  running  tennis courts  track & field  volleyball courts  walking paths 

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With the Olympics Postponed Until 2021, What Will Happen to the World Games in Alabama - at the Exact Same Time?

Posted By Mary Helen Sprecher, Monday, March 30, 2020
Updated: Wednesday, March 25, 2020

In all the uproar over COVID-19, we might have forgotten about an enormous international multi-sport event, scheduled to be held in July of next year. – in the U.S.

The quadrennial World Games, the multi-sport event similar to the Olympics, are scheduled to come to Birmingham, Alabama, from July 15-25, 2021.

The problem: The Olympics were supposed to be held from July 25-August 9 of this year – and it’s possible – if not downright likely – that the new dates for the Summer Games in Tokyo, once they’re rescheduled for next summer, will conflict.

The World Games isn’t going to be something easily dismissed. It’s a big event. Need proof of how big the numbers are? The Games will celebrate their 40th anniversary in 2021 (they began in 1981). Here is a by-the-numbers breakdown of the most recent games, held in Wroclaw, Poland:

240,000: The number of people present in the Wroclaw, who watched the Games

24: Number of venues

130: The number of countries receiving coverage of the Games (the Games were also carried 24/7 on the Olympic Channel)

1,600: How many volunteers it took to put on the Games

861: The number of media representatives (from 50 countries)

In Birmingham, officials are predicting the following numbers:

3,600: Number of athletes

100-plus: Number of countries that will be represented by those athletes

33: Number of sports to be contested

600-plus: The number of medals to be awarded

200: Number of gold medals

While the World Games are comparable to the Olympics in that they are an international multi-sport phenomenon, they are, in fact, markedly different.

Sports offered at the World Games, which are also scheduled to be contested in the Olympics in Tokyo (and which therefore might prove difficult to host) are as follows:

  • Archery
  • Baseball/Softball
  • Canoe
  • Gymnastics
  • Handball
  • Hockey
  • Karate
  • Rugby
  • Sport Climbing
  • Surfing

The sports to be contested at the World Games and not on the Olympic program (Side note; Let the Googling begin) are as follows:

  • Aikido
  • Air Sports
  • Baseball/Softball
  • Billiards
  • Bodybuilding
  • Boules Sports
  • Bowling
  • Casting
  • DanceSport
  • Fistball
  • Floorball
  • Flying Disc
  • Ju-Jitsu
  • Korfball
  • Lacrosse
  • Lifesaving
  • Muathai
  • Netball
  • Orienteering
  • Powerlifting (a different discipline from that of weightlifting)
  • Racquetball
  • Rollersports
  • Squash
  • Sumo
  • Tug Of War
  • Underwater Sports
  • Waterski and Wakeboard

While Birmingham is already active on the sports hosting scene, the World Games is expected to create a major impression on the city. While the Games are anticipated to cost $50 million, most of that funding will come from corporate sponsors. The payoff, though, is immense: a planned $256 million in economic impact.

The legacy of the Games is profound. After 2009, when Kaohsiung (southeast of Chinese Taipei) hosted, the logo of The World Games 2009 became the official city logo and Kaohsiung has gone on to host several other major sporting events, such as competitions in Sumo and Dance Sport.

The 2021 World Games will also mark the first time the event has been in the United States since, oddly, 40 years ago – when the first World Games ever took place, and were hosted in Santa Clara, California.

But what impact the rescheduling of the Olympics will have on the World Games is not yet known. The competition schedule on the World Games website, in which a program of events would be listed, stands blank. Will the World Games be forced to reschedule in order to accommodate the Olympics? The sports world will just have to wait to find out.

Tags:  Birmingham  coronavirus  COVID-19  multi-sport  Olympics  Tokyo  World Games 

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What is Thriving in the Age of COVID-19?

Posted By Mary Helen Sprecher, Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Six months ago, the coronavirus wasn’t even a blip on the radar screen and since that time, it has shaken our economy to the core. (Who would have suspected a cancellation of March Madness and a postponement of the Olympics in Tokyo?)


Some sectors of the sports economy, however, are doing their best to weather the storm. Some you might expect and others, not so much:


Professional bull riding is thriving. And despite being held in empty (or nearly empty) arenas, the extreme sport/rodeo hybrid is providing a welcome adrenaline rush. It’s no bull. Last weekend, the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) brought their show to Duluth, Georgia’s Infinity Energy Center. There were no spectators, but there were camera crews. The CBS Sports Network broadcast the action nationwide – where it was gobbled up by a sports-starved public.

“We are so proud of our partnership with CBS,” PBR CEO Sean Gleason said in a statement. “They’ve been a great and nimble partner in bringing more PBR action to fans this weekend.

Virtual EventsAlready having established a firm footing in the marketplace, virtual events have become a force to be reckoned with, meaning a D-I-Y event might help salvage at least a portion of the bottom line for event directors in the era of social distancing. As an example, USA Triathlon’s Time to Tri Virtual Triathlon is an active program that preexisted the coronavirus and has already seen excellent participation. It is free for individuals to participate and to register and upload their results; however, those who choose to make a $35 donation to the USA Triathlon Foundation will receive a finisher’s package that will include a finisher’s medal and a race T-shirt with 100 percent of the proceeds being directed to the Foundation. 


Another iteration of the virtual event was discussed by Chad Hoover of Kayak Bass Fishing. Because kayaks lack a live well, it is up to the angler to take a photo of his or her catch on the bump board and send the photo to tournament judges. Count on other fishing events to take similar steps if coronavirus continues to force cancellations into the summer.


Online Gaming: Okay, everyone loved hearing about the big numbers the Fortnite World Cup Finals racked up when they were held at the grounds of the U.S. Open in New York. For now, though, esports events that take place online are being favored. Activision’s Call of Duty League switched its live Home Series events to an online format only – and it’s hardly the only event to do so.


Online events have long been in use for many mind sports such as chess, bridge, Sudoku and match poker; expect these to continue in popularity.


Streamed Events: If events are still held and no crowds are allowed in, expect streaming to become even more popular. Jeremy Waller, Vice President of Business Development for Sports Channel Media and YourGameCam, stated his company has already seen increased inquiries from high schools about the potential for streaming.

“Live streaming is, in fact, already being leveraged further specifically because of the health risks surrounding large crowds,” he adds.


Remote Participation: In some cases, such as with performance sports, athletes may find it possible to create a recording of themselves and submit it to judges as part of a remote event.


Life Goes On: Some events are still being held. The Iditarod, unarguably Alaska's signature event, went on with the show. And, says Sports Illustrated, The NFL draft will no longer be held in Las Vegas over growing concern regarding the coronavirus outbreak and consultation with medical experts, according to multiple reports. The league is still planning to proceed as scheduled from April 23-25 but will make modifications to how the process will be conducted and broadcast.


While much has changed, the essential point is that all changes are temporary and that when the threat is contained, the country will need its sports as much as, if not more than, ever before.

Tags:  bull riding  coronavirus  COVID  COVID-19  esports  remote  sports in the age of COVID-19  streaming  virtual sports events 

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