Today’s stadiums and arenas aren’t designed for pandemic social distancing. Can these venues be safe? Some health experts warn that without strict social distancing guidelines, it might not be until 2021 before sports events are again held with spectators.
“The social distancing thing would not work in the stadium,” said University of New Haven Sports Management Professor Gil Fried, an internationally recognized expert on stadium safety. He talked to us on how the coronavirus will impact the future of live sports and safety at sporting venues.
“You will need to [remove] at least 9-10 seats per person, at least two seats on either side” and possibly an open seat in front and one behind the person to achieve the required six-feet distance seemed acceptable for social distancing. Fried based this on the arena seat’s average 18-21-inch width.
There are other variables to be considered in preparing stadiums and arenas for games, Fried noted. “You are looking at a million square feet of space in a large stadium. That’s a lot of cleaning to do. If you have two or three people in the facility and they test positive afterwards, you will have to clean the entire facility. Who is going to pay for that?”
The fans’ pandemic game-day experience, including such things as time-honored pregame tailgating rituals outside of the stadium, will be different as well, Fried said. “How are we going to deal with food? Or we will [only] have prepackaged food [such as] bagged potato chips and bagged popcorn?”
This is not to mention the psychological aspect, Fried pointed out. “Do [fans] want to come back to the facilities?” he asked. “With the virus, do you want to sit close [to someone]? … When we start up again, will we require all players and spectators to wear masks? We just don’t have all the answers yet.”
Baseball may be the first sport to begin sometime this summer. “You take a look at the average age of the Major League Baseball fan, which is around 50—that is a target audience that is very susceptible to the virus,” Fried said.
Sports in the post-COVID age will be markedly different. “I think there will be more dynamic change” even in how stadiums and arenas are constructed in the future.
“We are in trying times, but we have to think broadly about how we look at [stadium safety]. Now is not the time to not give a damn about the others. We have to be concerned about others, and do whatever we can to protect them. I hope we do things differently.”
FSN earlier this week began its eight-game classic Minnesota Lynx series: The remaining contests are May 24, 6 pm; May 26, 7 pm; May 31, 6 pm; June 7, 6 pm; June 13, 7 pm; June 21, 6 pm; and June 25, 7 pm. The channel already has been running past Twins and Wolves games.
TV prefers subpar men to top women
The struggling UConn football program recently inked a deal with CBS Sports Network, which prompted SUNY Assistant Professor Lindsey Darvin to tweet last week, “Subpar men’s contests have a much higher chance of being televised than top-25 women’s.”
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.