Commentary: Venues should step up to the plate to assist with Covid-19

Hard Rock Stadium, home of Super Bowl LIV

Is there a way that sports venues could assist with the public challenges being caused by the coronavirus? I’m not a public policy expert but it seems like there are some inherent characteristics about big, open places that could actually assist in combating the spread of the disease and helping ease the pain it is causing and will likely cause.

Already we are seeing reports of venue parking lots being used as staging points for mobile testing for Covid-19 infection. Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, recently home of Super Bowl LIV, is just one place where local agencies are taking advantage of the wide-open parking lots to set up mobile testing areas. Another one is being set up at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, the scheduled home of Super Bowl LV. As many venues have dedicated parking lots that basically aren’t being used at all right now, it seems like a good place to set up such activities.

UPDATE: Brazil isn’t waiting: Sao Paulo Stadium to Be Used as Hospital to Treat Coronavirus in Brazil

Shelter, medical care and food?

Let me restate the fact that I am not an authority on any of these subjects, but I am hoping that perhaps some venue types can weigh in and comment on the reality of using venues as possible places for people to shelter, receive medical care or maybe just a meal. I was struck by an editorial I read in the New York Times written by Jose Andres, who is a chef, a restaurant owner and founder of the nonprofit World Central Kitchen. I encourage all venue owners and operators to read his editorial, which basically says that one big way to fight the effects of the disease is to mobilize restaurant workers and use federal aid and large kitchens — like those in arenas and stadiums — to help feed the public.

Some of his bullet points, which represent lessons learned in trying to help Puerto Rico recover from Hurricane Maria:

In Puerto Rico we used three clear approaches to feed our fellow Americans that can be a guide to heading off an economic and food crisis today:

— Support the private sector as quickly as possible when the economy crashes, as it did after Maria: activate kitchens with federal dollars to serve the people.

— Repurpose and deploy community facilities, while expanding their mission: use the kitchens in schools and arenas to feed more people, more quickly.

— Solve the informational and logistical challenge: Matching demand and supply — by getting food to the people who need it most — is even more challenging than cooking in a crisis. Distribution is the Achilles’ heel of any disaster response.

Since most stadiums have multiple kitchen resources, it seems like venues might be a great place to set up operations for free or low-cost meals that are most likely going to be needed as more people find themselves out of work while most private restaurants face extreme challenges trying to operate on only a take-out or delivery basis. Sports teams and venues have already stepped forward ahead of government in pledging monetary support for the stadium workers who won’t be able to be at events. I would suggest that venues, teams and owners should also take the lead in mobilizing the currently empty venues as facilities for public good, maybe starting with acting as meal centers.

To Mr. Andres’ final point above, it strikes me that setting up larger kitchens and food-preparation operations might be a good strategy as we try to keep supply and delivery systems uncontaminated by the virus. I’m also wondering out loud here but might it also not be possible to use venues as temporary shelters for workers, so that they don’t have to risk spreading or contracting the virus? In-house testing could be set up to keep the venues a sort of enclosed space free of the disease. It might not be the most comfortable place to be, but again it strikes me that venues are somewhat already designed for public distancing, with wide walkways meant to handle crowds that could now serve as enclosed spaces with plenty of room to roam. Most venues also have multiple shower and restroom areas that are relatively easy to clean, perhaps making them easier to keep disinfected.

Again, let me stress — I don’t know what I don’t know about most of this, but I am hoping that perhaps venue owners and operators are already thinking along these lines. I am happy to help foster a discussion, you can use the comments below to chime in, or send me an email with longer thoughts and I will keep this thread going. But I do think, like in the case of providing for arena workers, venue owners, teams and others need to act first instead of waiting for government officials to figure it out.

Speak Your Mind