Back to top

Will packed venues lose out to virtual fans?

Matt Rossetti feels that there are many things involved with the pandemic. The big picture he says is that the industry is “obviously decimated and we are losing hundreds of millions of dollars a year”.

He pointed out that the sports and hospitality industry is all about congregation – bringing people together. But, thanks to the pandemic, Rossetti stated that to bring people together has become a dangerous proposition. Against this entire COVID-19 backdrop, the top gun stated that one will have to see what are the opportunities that can arise out of this pandemic situation – “What are the things we can change now that have a major impact on other things like control and security.”

Like most of the other eminent architects, Rossetti likened the impact coronavirus is having on the sports venue sector to what the airline industry faced after 9/11 – “Prior to 9/11, in United States one could just walk into the airports, no id check or other security procedures. Okay, what happened was very bad – people got on airplanes and took them over. So, the industry is always worried about that – bad people find their ways to sneak in and do whole lot of things.”

The architect tried to put across the fact that before COVID-19 struck, cleanliness and sanitization in venues or in every other aspect of our lives was not ‘The Important’ factor. But, post-COVID-19, putting into place strict hygiene measures in sports venues or in any other entity has become imperative – “I think the pandemic provides an opportunity for the leagues to create something similar to what has been created by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in US – some guidelines against arresting the spread of germs – we get away from paper tickets, its solely knowing and using yourself for data to know who’s in your building and frankly have continuous facial recognition around venue – for both security and also for frictionless and touchless transactions. Because touchless is sanitized, safe right now, so, let’s call it touchless for that purpose. In reality it’s also frictionless since it is easy to pay such like swipe right for Amazon. Since it’s easy to pay, the tendency is you are going to buy more. It’s just human nature.”

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is an agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that has authority over the security of the traveling public in the United States. It was created as a response to the September 11 attacks.

Rossetti wanted to put across the fact that just like the TSA ensures the security of flyers, the stadiums and leagues should also do something similar to keep and make fans feel secure and comfortable in stadia in a coronavirus world.

He also pointed out that touchless transactions will also ramp up F&B and merchandise sales. Before the scenario was such that prior to buying clothes one would go to the shop and try them out in the trial room to determine which fits best. This is a very dangerous thing to do today in the pandemic world. “When COVID has forced everything to go virtual, we know by the click of a mouse whether we want any clothes in medium or large. The whole process is touchless and safe. Even for lockers or places, you are able to get access to from facial recognition or scans or other things. So, that’s one kind of an opportunity that’s created,” Rossetti explained.

Rossetti added, “And the second thing is types of mind about these stadium operators, team Presidents, team owners is the difference between temporal changes and permanent changes in the future we will never want to do again. We know that eventually we will put people right next to each other again, we are going to pack our stadiums just like we did before. People will forget about the disease, and then very likely another pandemic will come along. Once the virus is back, we will do the same thing, we will scatter and we will create these short-term seating solutions, putting 25 to 35 percent people back into venues. And putting up guards and things like that, they will go away. Those are things we see as short-term. Long-term things like sanitization, turning cleanliness and sanitization into hospitality we see as a permanent solution.”

He tried to highlight the fact that only with squeaky clean venues and strict hygiene measures can we keep the fatal virus at bay. He reminisced about the whole cooking procedure 20 to 30 years back in restaurants – everything was done behind a wall. But, now, in most of the eateries cooking is done right before the customers’ eyes and “you feel like the food is fresher. One can see it and knows it’s good because somebody is making it in front of you”.

Rossetti stated that the same thing applies to the cleanliness and sanitization procedures in venues – it’s a behind the scenes exercise right now. But, with the pandemic, venue operators could very well think of carrying out this entire operation right in front of the spectators – “it could very well be something that we could see in the future”.