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Football teams rethink stadium design to adjust for COVID

Greg Echlin Oct 6, 2020
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Todd Olszewski/Getty Images
COVID-19

Football teams rethink stadium design to adjust for COVID

Greg Echlin Oct 6, 2020
Heard on:
Todd Olszewski/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

As football continues this fall, pro teams and major college programs are turning to architects in an attempt to devise stadium layouts to accommodate socially distanced fans and help prevent the spread of COVID-19 at games.

Nate Appleman is an architect for HOK, a Kansas City firm that designs stadiums and other venues. He said he has been busy in the last few months, dealing with questions like: “How are restroom facilities going to operate from a physically distant standpoint? How are concession stands going to operate? What is our maximum ability to populate the seating bowl in a physically distant scenario?”

HOK designed Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, where the Falcons play. The Falcons decided not to have fans at home games in September. Now, HOK is mainly working with big college football programs. 

In the NFL, it’s up to each team to determine its own fan policy.

The Kansas City football team opened the season Sept. 10 at Arrowhead Stadium. There were about 16,000 masked fans in a 75,000-seat venue.

The team worked with Populous, another Kansas City architectural firm, to make changes. The team’s president Mark Donovan knew that other NFL teams, still figuring out their plans, would be watching.

“We take the responsibility very seriously,” Donovan said.

The Kansas City Health Department and the team later announced that a fan tested positive for COVID-19 the day after the game. According to the team, the fan was in compliance with the stadium rules while entering the stadium with a face mask. Wearing masks through the whole game is mandatory. The city health department directed 10 people who were at the game to quarantine for exposure.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

So what’s up with “Zoom fatigue”?

It’s a real thing. The science backs it up — there’s new research from Stanford University. So why is it that the technology can be so draining? Jeremy Bailenson with Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab puts it this way: “It’s like being in an elevator where everyone in the elevator stopped and looked right at us for the entire elevator ride at close-up.” Bailenson said turning off self-view and shrinking down the video window can make interactions feel more natural and less emotionally taxing.

How are Americans spending their money these days?

Economists are predicting that pent-up demand for certain goods and services is going to burst out all over as more people get vaccinated. A lot of people had to drastically change their spending in the pandemic because they lost jobs or had their hours cut. But at the same time, most consumers “are still feeling secure or optimistic about their finances,” according to Candace Corlett, president of WSL Strategic Retail, which regularly surveys shoppers. A lot of people enjoy browsing in stores, especially after months of forced online shopping. And another area expecting a post-pandemic boost: travel.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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