Sports return, future of fans back in stadiums possible with changes

There are many unknowns in the new opperations of sports and one of those factors is the future of their fans.

But one of the leading sports architects in the country, Don Barnum of DLR Group weighs in on that. 

Barnum leads the firm's global sports studio and has worked on sports and entertainment venues for over 30 years. 

He explains that pre-COVID-19 concerns, the key aspect of these types of venues, such as CenturyLink Field, Husky Stadium and T-Mobile Park in Seattle, has been getting as many people in the venue with the best possible vantage point for viewing. 

Now that focus has changed. 

"Every venue is really interested in how they can bring people back in the venues in a safe way and create the confidence when those fans arrive, that they are going into a safe place," said Barnum.

He said all of his stadium clients have reached out in the last couple of months to see what their best options are moving forward. 

It breaks down into three basic categories: gates, transactional experiences, and of course, seating and viewing area.

"All of the venues that we're working with are taking a strict interpretation of the six-foot separation and we're getting 15-18% potential capacity," Barnum explains.

"That will naturally allow for some distancing inside the stadium, but there still needs to be a lot of controls as to where people go, how they get there and how they sit." 

Barnum told Q13 gates are the most packed experience and as long as the six-foot distance guidelines are in place, it will take 10-times as much space as it normally would to safely social-distance when entering stadiums.

He anticipates seating arangements to dictate where you'll be allowed to enter the facility. From there, expect food services, ticketing and even restroom interactions to be touchless.

As for seats and viewing area, stadiums like T-Mobile Park, who have additional outdoor space like 'The Pen' can use that to successfully social distance while ticketed seats will be decided based on stadium capacity allowed.

"There have been studies that have looked at one person sitting in a chair and then the next person three chairs away and the next person three rows behind. That's never going to work. Nobody wants to experience an event like that," noted Barnum.

"So we've been looking at smaller groups of people, two, four, six, eight, that can be purchased and then keeping all of those groups away from one another at a certain distance," said Barnum.

Good news for fans who enjoy suites and VIP lounge settings. Many of those setups are already great social distance options, thanks to private boxes that keep certain groups together. 

Obviously nothing at this point is certain or out of the question. Barnum tells me it will be up to each venue to decide what is the best option for them in terms of weighing the financial costs of these changes.

As for our local stadiums, nothing official has been announced.