SEATTLE - The Seattle Kraken and Oak View Group are leading the way in figuring out best practices for getting fans back in arenas for entertainment events.
Since the middle of July, Oak View Group's Vice President of Events, Don Graham, has been pulling double duty. Not only has he been overseeing development of Climate Pledge Arena while leading a COVID-19 focused task force, he has also been the Lead Compliance Officer for the NHL in Toronto.
Graham oversaw all health and safety measures for the teams playing in the Eastern Conference bubble. This included extra cleaning techniques for benches, penalty boxes and locker rooms. His team also made sure mask wearing was enforced. Graham's stint in Toronto served as a real-time opportunity to see what works for events in a spost pandemic venue.
"We will be able to take our experience from here and give it out to the rest of our OVG family but as a whole, give it out to the rest of the industry," explains Graham.
Oak View Group has 51 venues under its umbrella, including 29 major NBA and NHL stadiums. Since the pandemic began, Graham has been working on an OVG task force to find best practices that can be used throughout their family of venues, and also to help set a new industry standard.
"We're also in collaboration with a company called Delos, who has the WELL Institute and it basically a health and safety rating that they have been doing for offices and hospitals, but they've never done it in the sports and entertainment field. So we work with them now on doing a certification and an auditing system," says Graham.
Through the task force's research, they are finding new ways to make venues safe for spectators at full capacity, and then WELL Certification will hold these establishments accountable.
"We've never had that for sanization and now. That's what we are trying to create is that certification and auditing process so then people can say that building has done everything it possibly can do to make my employees safe and the fans," explains Graham.
These practices include sanitization efforts, touchless transactions and updated heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.
For Climate Pledge Arena, these changes will be easy to implament since Oak View Group had the foresight to move in this direction prior to the Covid pandemic. The Arena is already set up for paperless ticketing; a concessions market place that eliminates lines and face-to-face interactions with food and beverage staff, and updated restroom designs.
Graham says the biggest changes Oak View Group has had to make for Climate Pledge Arena is how and when it will be cleaned once opened.
"We just used to wait until the event was over and clean, and that's just what you did in the industry," says Graham, "but now we are constantly going around with full sanitization crews. That is a full 24-7 position that is just going around and wiping hard surfaces down that you never saw before."
Also, expect more points of entry into the arena to avoid congestion.
Graham tells Q13 News that this situation is very similar to the safety measures put in place at venues following the September 11th attacks, and like those, these will be just as important.
"You walk around venues and you notice some things that should be done right, now you have in the back of your mind that they should be done cause that's the only way that we are going to get through this. And it will be the only way that we will be able to open our doors again and let the local municipalities let us open our doors ... They are going to check to make sure what we're saying we're actually doing ... it's something that should have been done a long time ago," says Graham.
Graham says he's confident in what the Oak View Group is doing to get their arenas ready to rewelcome fans back. As for Climate Pledge Arena, he says he does expect safety measures to be in place so that fans can be in attendance when the Seattle Kraken makes their NHL debut in 2021.