When Will Fans Feel Safe In Seats?
|As many leagues move towards potentially relaunching their seasons without fans in their respective stadiums once it is deemed safe for the players, one question that is not yet answerable is when fans will be able to do the same, and what will leagues, teams, and arenas need to do to make them feel comfortable in their venues.
What Fans Are Saying
In a poll of 400 sports fans, 31.4% said that they would likely start attending sports events again as soon as games started playing again, according to data from Designsensory Intelligence.
Furthermore, 35.4% said that they were not sure when they would attend a sporting event again, but it would be whenever they would be comfortable being in crowds again, and 25.1% said they were not sure what it would take for them to attend a sporting event again. Roughly 5% said they would likely never attend a sporting event again, although Designsensory Intelligence notes those fans may not have attended live sports events even prior to the pandemic.
However, despite a relatively pessimistic reaction to going back to a game, 95.9% of those fans said that they would continue to support the sports that they have in the past, either the same or even stronger than before. Twenty-two percent of those fans also said that live sports will be even better than ever, while 10.1% said live sports would not rebound from this.
What Operators Are Doing
Oak View Group, which operates a 28-member arena and stadium alliance that includes Madison Square Garden and the Los Angeles Forum, is planning on launching a new division that will specialize in making sure venues are sanitized and in line with government health recommendations, according to Variety.
Before we open those doors, we have to create new standards that show people we actually took the extra steps to sanitize the building – the seats, concourse, restrooms, concession stands, and the clubs – and screen our employees when they come into work; we may also have to get people in and out of our buildings in a way that’s different from what we used to do,” Oak View Group CEO Tim Leiweke told Variety.
Leiweke said that he could not yet comment on how social distancing might be integrated into venues, whether that is through things like touchless technology, more germ-resistant materials, or even thermal screening.
While he did not speculate on when fans might be open to heading back to stadiums and arenas, Leiweke said that the return would have to be gradual.
“The virus will determine the timeline, not us,” he told Variety. “But we will gain the consumers’ confidence and grow that 56% that will attend concerts to 80 or 90% if we can create a system and implement that system that they have confidence and trust in. That’s the great challenge, and it’s going to take some time, but I can tell you we’re on it.”