Chiefs, Ravens unveil limited-capacity seating plans for 2020 season

Arrowhead Stadium after the Chiefs’ win over the Tennessee Titans in the AFC Championship game. Credit: Sam Lutz/Kansas City Chiefs

While there’s still no guarantee that the NFL will play games at all this fall, or allow fans to attend if they do, two more teams — the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs and the Baltimore Ravens — have announced plans for limited-capacity stadium seating if the games take place.

While the Chiefs’ statement did not announce a number, the Ravens’ announcement did say that if fans were allowed in M&T Bank Stadium this season during the coronavirus pandemic, the total permitted would be “fewer than 14,000 seats per game” in order to meet specifications laid out by “the social distancing guidelines and fan safety protocols developed by health experts, governmental officials and the NFL,” the team said.

While the Chiefs did not set a baseline number, the team said it would not be able to have Arrowhead Stadium filled to capacity.

“People around the country and around the world are getting accustomed to a constantly changing environment and the same goes for all of us in Chiefs Kingdom,” Chiefs President Mark Donovan said in a prepared statement. “While our goal all offseason was to have a full stadium as we begin our Super Bowl title defense, it is out of consideration of the health and safety of our fans, employees, coaches and players that we move forward with a reduced-capacity plan that adheres to local guidelines and expert recommendations.”

Both teams outlined plans to accomodate fans who have already purchased tickets or season tickets for the upcoming season, with various credits and refund options depending on what the fans decide to do. For example, both teams are offering 2020 season ticket payments to be credited to the 2021 season, among other options.

Earlier this year, the Miami Dolphins publicly shared plans to open Hard Rock Stadium to NFL fans with a limited capacity of approximately 15,000.

Ivy League cancels all fall sports due to Covid-19

Is it the first domino, or just a separate case? Wednesday’s decision by the Ivy League to cancel all fall sports — including football — due to the pandemic may either be just the first of many such actions, especially if the current rise in coronavirus cases continues to climb.

In a press release, the league said:

The Ivy League Council of Presidents offered the following joint statement:
“As a leadership group, we have a responsibility to make decisions that are in the best interest of the students who attend our institutions, as well as the faculty and staff who work at our schools. These decisions are extremely difficult, particularly when they impact meaningful student-athlete experiences that so many value and cherish.

With the information available to us today regarding the continued spread of the virus, we simply do not believe we can create and maintain an environment for intercollegiate athletic competition that meets our requirements for safety and acceptable levels of risk, consistent with the policies that each of our schools is adopting as part of its reopening plans this fall.

We are entrusted to create and maintain an educational environment that is guided by health and safety considerations. There can be no greater responsibility — and that is the basis for this difficult decision.”

PGA scrubs idea for fans at Memorial Tournament

The PGA canceled its idea to have a limited amount of fans at the upcoming Memorial Tournament, “due to the rapidly changing dynamics of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

In a release posted Monday on the tournament’s website, the much-ballyhooed plan to have fans tracked by wearing RFID-equipped badges and another series of related planned safety procedures turned out to not be enough in the end for the July 14-19 event to be the PGA Tour’s first with fans in attendance.

“We applaud the leadership, diligence and partnership it took from Jack Nicklaus, Dan Sullivan, the entire Memorial Tournament staff and State, County and City leadership to build a solid plan that would allow for limited fan attendance at next week’s event,” said PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan in a prepared statement. “But given the broader challenges communities are facing due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we need to stay focused on the No. 1 priority for our Return to Golf — the health and safety of all involved. While this was a difficult decision, it was one made collectively, and we are appreciative of the process undertaken to this point that will allow us to welcome on-site fans when the time is right.”

It’s worth noting that the PGA’s return to live events has had its struggles in keeping the virus at bay, with several players and caddies testing positive after what golf insiders saw as a lackluster attempt at sticking to safety protocols. There have even been calls around golf for the tour to hit the pause button on its comeback:

Stadium Tech Report has been trying to get an official response from the Memorial Tournament since May to describe the details of the RFID-tag plan that were not initially disclosed, including information on how the badges would be scanned on the course, and how the event would monitor and control the crowds. However, the tournament has declined to respond via email or by phone to any of our questions.

Perform Path launches to bring UV disinfection technology to sports venues

UV disinfecting systems from Perform Path will be available in designs that can be mounted in ceiling tiles or on walls. Credit: Violet Defense

Will ultraviolet light be part of the disinfection solution for sports venues as they build an infrastructure that can deal with the Covid-19 pandemic? That’s the bet behind Perform Path, a Lake Mary, Fla.-based startup built to sell UV-disinfection solutions to teams and venues that the company says are “effective at killing up to 99.9% of harmful bacteria and viruses.”

Though no certified tests have proven that UV light can kill the coronavirus, since it is effective against many other types of pathogens many medical professionals seem to believe that UV systems could also work to eliminate Covid-19. Perform Path will be using devices based on technology from an Orlando, Fla., company called Violet Defense, which last year deployed its UV cleaning systems in the Orlando Magic’s locker rooms and other player social areas.

Jack Elkins, former director of innovation for the Magic, said the UV systems from Violet Defense were deployed before the world had even heard of the coronavirus. “We had initiated the project in order to protect players from all kinds of dangerous pathogens, which have become increasingly hard to kill,” Elkins said. Though Elkins later left the Magic to start an innovation-consulting firm called Sidekick Innovations, he’s balancing that initiative to also take over as president of Perform Path, which he thinks answers a growing need in the venue technology space.

“We did not get in this because we’re making a bet on the pandemic driving business,” Elkins said. “My near term effort is to help point my friends and colleagues in the right direction as they are putting protocols together. Sports should be safe and inspirational and we shouldn’t all have to be infectious disease experts to make it that way. We don’t want a world without sports. We want a world where we win against germs.”

Disinfects in 30 minutes

Given the news this past week of players from multiple sports testing positive for Covid-19 due to exposure during team activities, it seems like any technology that might help with active disinfections would be of potential interest to teams, schools and venues. According to Elkins the tests done by the Magic on its UV system deployment — which covered locker rooms, player lounges and some other common team areas — showed that it was extremely effective in eliminating pathogens in the air and on surfaces. According to Elkins the light system can “kill things to baseline zero” within a 30-minute time period.

Portable UV units can be rolled into different rooms. Credit: Violet Defense

One big benefit of the UV system, Elkins said, is that it runs by itself and is not prone to “cleaning errors” such as incorrect application of cleaning products or missed spots in hands-on disinfectant methods.

“We implemented a new versatile, smart UV disinfection technology because germs cannot become resistant to UV, and it wouldn’t require any effort on our staff,” said Elkins about the Magic’s initial deployment of UV systems. While hospitals have used UV systems for years, Elkins said the development of smaller UV systems will give teams the flexibility to deploy the technology in many different spaces.

Perform Path will offer products based on Violet Defense technology that are also resold by Puro Lighting of Lakewood, Colo., including units that can be mounted in ceiling tiles or on walls, as well as portable stand-type devices. Puro, along with Violet Defense, is currently participating in a project with the New York City mass transit system where the portable stand units are being used to disinfect trains.

The Perform Path devices use pulsed Xenon light to deliver the disinfecting light. According to the Violet Defense website:

“Pulsed Xenon technology delivers powerful, broad spectrum UV-C, UV-B, UV-A and Violet-blue light to begin killing germs immediately. Kills up to 99.9% of bacteria and viruses, including E. coli, Salmonella, Norovirus and even superbugs like MRSA.”

Elkins also said that Perform Path will donate a percentage of its revenues or provide UV disinfection systems “to groups of people at the margins of society who deserve pro-level protection.

“We’re not crisis chasing,” Elkins said. “We’re in this for the long run.”

NFL issues facility-reopening protocols for distancing, cleaning

The NFL on Monday sent teams a nine-page guide of protocols that need to be followed in order to safely allow players and staff into team facilities during the coronavirus pandemic.

The guidelines, made public by the league, include a list of cleaning steps and procedures to ensure player and staff safety from the virus, including specific steps for disinfecting practice and workout areas and cleaning equipment and other things like gloves and towels. The protocols also include the need for social distancing, including having locker spaces six feet apart.

While no date has yet been set for when players and staff might return to team facilities, the NFL’s report said that some players might start returning for injury rehabilitation and other procedures sometime later this month. According to the protocols, teams will also be required to certify that they have complied with the guidelines, and the league said it will also conduct “unannounced inspections” to ensure that teams are complying.

MLB proposes 82-game schedule with no fans in stadiums

News reports Monday said that Major League Baseball has formalized a plan for an 82-game season in stadiums without fans, an idea that still must face approval from the players’ association. According to a report in the New York Times the plan includes a designated hitter for both leagues, as well as an expanded playoff system and regional schedules to limit travel.

What’s yet unclear is how the league will regulate the opening of stadiums for games, since even without fans there must be safety procedures in place to protect players, umpires and stadium and broadcast staffs. One player, Washington Nationals closer Sean Doolittle, said he’d be paying close attention to such details:

According to a report on ESPN, MLB will present the plan to the players on Tuesday.