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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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