September 30, 2020 | By Matt Rossetti
From a design perspective, change always offers an opportunity to fix issues that aren’t working, invest in technology, or change behaviors into something more favorable. That may be a rosy spin for the challenging situation the sports venue industry finds itself in today. But I truly believe that temporal, COVID-reactive changes can be viewed as a long-term investment to fix some traditional challenges.
Architects are in a unique position to understand issues across different sports and venue types. At the beginning of this summer, ROSSETTI invited 20 representatives from leagues, teams and operators to share knowledge and test ideas within an open dialogue. Called the COVID-19 Forum, we wanted to address the big issues by looking at this as an opportunity to make permanent changes versus focusing on the temporary. Both fall into place together.
For example, we heard that venues have wanted to implement cashless systems for many years, but fans have been resistant. Concerns about COVID are a valid reason to make this transition with the benefit of being immediately understood and even welcomed by fans. The Green Bay Packers have embarked on integrating a cashless system as we renovate their belly-up concessions to Grab'n Go Markets.
We also heard from team presidents and league representatives that venue security and control are top of mind to bring spectators safely back into their facilities. We’ve worked with several clients to ‘test fit’ scenarios, such as temporarily taking out seats in aisles to create more circulation space in the concourse and pods for fan groups. New portals of entry can temporarily disperse bottlenecking. To financially offset the cost, there’s usually a corporate partner and sponsorship opportunity that can provide value in creating brand awareness.
Venue operations staff have always been anxious to understand who is coming into their facilities. Leagues are taking the lead in exploring mandates similar to what TSA has done in airports. Better control not only means keeping out disease, it also means keeping out weapons and those with behavioral issues.
As leagues and teams cautiously move forward to progress games, events and training, we will continue to explore solutions to safely transition facilities designed to maximize a connective environment into ones that force people apart. With skill and a little luck, we will be able to solve these problems both temporarily and for the long-term. Stay tuned to more thoughts and examples of design exploration and action.
As President of ROSSETTI, Matt leads the firm's framework for innovative design thinking. A third-generation architect, Matt has grown the company into an internationally-recognized design firm. He believes architecture must have a dimension beyond form and function in order to meet our client’s vision and provide value. His passion for urban revitalization has driven the firm’s methodology to integrate sports with commercial mixed use. Matt was elevated to the College of Fellows by the AIA for his expertise, study and work in the field of sports and entertainment.