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A blueprint for reopening ballparks

St. Paul Saints seating

When the 2020 baseball season resumes and fans are allowed back into ballparks, safety will be foremost on their minds. Here’s one plan from a veteran independent/MiLB operator designed to reassure fans that venue pros have that same priority.

The Goldklang Group, owner of the Charleston RiverDogs (Low A; Sally League), St. Paul Saints(independent; American Association) and Hudson Valley Renegades (Short Season A; NY-Penn League), put together guides with a plan on how they would resume operations once play resumes and fans are allowed back into ballparks. Last week we ran a story on prepping for fans when they return to the ballpark; this guide follows up with very specific guidelines designed to reassure fans that teams and ballpark operators have safety at the top of their priorities.

You can read the guide from the Charleston RiverDogs here, but the guides for the Saints and Renegades are based on the same game plan. Here are some highlights:

  • Cashless payment will rule. We’ve seen teams move toward cashless payments before the COVID-19 pandemic, and this may be the nudge that moves cashless payment into the venue mainstream. In addition, tickets will be going paperless and transmitted via email, even if they are purchased at a ballpark ticket office.
  • Socially distanced seating will be implemented in all three ballparks. Above is the example seating layout planned for CHS Field, with vacant rows and seats configured to maintain proper distancing between familial parties. Group and other open areas will also be configured to enforce social distancing.
  • Concourses will be marked off to create a defined traffic flow. Kids play areas will not be operated. No balls will be thrown from players into the stands, and no autograph sessions with players.
  • Public ballpark areas will be cleaned regularly, and hand sanitizers will be placed around the ballparks. Also under consideration: ionizers and/or disinfectant foggers in enclosed ballpark areas.
  • Fans will be subject to health screenings prior to entry, consistent with local health codes.
  • Ballpark game-day staffers will have their temperatures checked upon arrival and be issued facemasks and gloves.

All of this makes sense, and we’d expect any venue expecting thousands of fans to be set up in a similar fashion. In the end, a game plan like this will be needed to persuade local health officials to allow fans to return to the ballpark: almost every state lists sporting events as one of the last things to reopen under current stay-at-home guidelines, and with polls showing most fans are wary of attending sports events, building confidence in the ballpark experience is a must.

This article originally appeared in the free Ballpark Digest newsletter. Are you a subscriber? Sign up here!

With daily news about the spread of the coronavirus impacting the sports-business and facilities industries, it’s more important than ever to stay up with the latest news in the venues industry. That’s why we launched a Venues Digest newsletter focusing on coronavirus information across the ballparks, arenas, stadiums, theater and performing-arts worlds. For now it will appear daily, and for now it will be free of charge to industry professionals. Sign up here.

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