Mercedes-Benz Stadium, home of NFL American football franchise the Atlanta Falcons and Major League Soccer (MLS) outfit Atlanta United, has become the latest major US sports venue to adapt its food and beverage services to aid the local community during COVID-19.
Mercedes-Benz Stadium and the family foundation of Falcons and United owner, Arthur M. Blank, have announced three new programs in partnership with Piedmont Healthcare, CHRIS 180 and chef Hugh Acheson to donate meals to surrounding Atlanta communities amidst the pandemic.
The Piedmont Healthcare program, which launched last week, will provide 5,000 meals a week to Piedmont Hospitals in Fayette County and Newnan, south of metro Atlanta. Providing boxed meals allows frontline healthcare workers to also practice social distancing in areas such as the hospital cafeteria where it might otherwise be difficult. Mercedes-Benz Stadium and its food and beverage partner Levy Restaurants are preparing the lunches and delivering them to the two hospitals three times a week.
In addition, Mercedes-Benz Stadium is offering its kitchens and Levy chefs to prepare food for CHRIS 180. A long-time Blank Family Foundation partner on the westside of Atlanta, CHRIS 180 provides residents with critical support services, such as housing, behavioural health and youth development. To help address current issues with food insecurity, Mercedes-Benz Stadium is providing meals to CHRIS 180 to distribute to the westside community.
Lastly, with a grant from the Blank Family Foundation, renowned Atlanta chef Acheson is partnering with Georgia Organics and Fueling the Frontline to deliver hundreds of meals each week to frontline workers at Atlanta Medical Center and the VA health care system, as well as to children and families through Carver Neighborhood Market, the Metro YMCA and HEALing Community Center.
The venture comes after Nationals Park, home of Major League Baseball (MLB) franchise the Washington Nationals, was last week repurposed as a hub to cook and distribute thousands of free meals to those in need.
“Serving our community has always been one of our driving forces as an organisation, and when we work alongside our partners, we can together provide more value with our COVID-19 relief efforts,” said Steve Cannon, CEO of AMB Sports + Entertainment, operating group of the stadium and its two teams.
“More than ever, the people of Atlanta need us to join forces with other organisations and utilise our resources to drive positive change, and it’s our hope that these efforts provide hope and aid during this time of need.”
In March, the Blank Family Foundation announced nearly $5.4m (£4.3m/€4.9m) in funding for immediate and long-term recovery assistance to organisations providing critical support throughout Georgia and Montana in response to the global pandemic.
Last week it was announced that Blank and Mercedes-Benz Stadium had established a $1m emergency relief fund for core stadium event-day associates, including associates for concessions partner, Levy Restaurants, and venue security partner, SAFE Management, to provide assistance with hardship incurred as a result of the pandemic.
MLB team the St. Louis Cardinals has stepped up its commitment to seasonal and game-day employees at Busch Stadium by announcing an additional $1m fund to support those impacted by postponed games and events.
The first fund, which was announced as part of the League-wide 30-club, $30m effort in March, will aid approximately 1,350 part-time and game-day Cardinals employees including ushers, event staff, scoreboard operators, grounds crew, retail staff, carpenters, labourers, interns, and others affected by the delay to the season’s start.
Financial support for these employees will range from $500 to $1,275, depending on tenure and other factors, with cheques being mailed or funds being available through direct deposit starting yesterday (Tuesday).
The new second fund is being created through a $1m grant by Cardinals Care, the team’s community foundation. The Cardinals Care Relief Fund is designed to provide relief to 2020 seasonal and game-day Busch Stadium contract employees experiencing financial hardship due to the pandemic.
This group of workers, estimated to be close to 1,900, includes concession employees, emergency medical and security personnel, cleanup crew members, and others who work for companies that contract with the Cardinals to provide services to the team.
Cardinals Care is partnering with the St. Louis Community Foundation, which is holding and administering the fund, to process eligible recipients and implement the grant program. Eligible recipients will receive a one-time grant of $450. Any excess funds left after the initial grants are processed will go to cases of severe hardship.
“We are committed to helping the St. Louis community during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Cardinals president Bill DeWitt III. “Providing financial support for our seasonal and game-day employees is critical, and we consider all Busch Stadium workers – regardless of what company name is on their paycheque – to be part of the Cardinals family.”
The move comes after the Cardinals teamed up with Anheuser-Busch, Fox Sports Midwest and the American Red Cross to announce they would host a blood drive at Busch Stadium on April 21.
Sixways Stadium, home of English Premiership rugby union team Worcester Warriors, has become the latest UK sports venue to be used as a drive-through COVID-19 testing facility.
The move is part of the government’s UK-wide effort to increase testing for thousands more NHS staff and other key workers. Sixways will operate on an appointment-only basis for NHS staff and other key workers. The facility will be piloted for its first few days of operation.
The UK government is partnering with universities, research institutes and companies to begin rolling out the network of new labs and field testing sites, with 27 testing sites opened to date. This network will provide thousands more PCR swab tests, used to identify if a person currently has the virus, for critical key workers, starting with NHS front line staff.
The Sixways testing centre is being operated in partnership with security services company G4S, and is offering self-administered tests. Those tested will receive their results within a few days.
Warriors co-owner Colin Goldring said: “We have a large car park at Sixways, situated close to a junction of the M5 motorway and other main roads which makes the site easily accessible to NHS staff in Worcester, Worcestershire and the wider West Midlands. We were only too happy to help when we were asked about using our facilities for this drive-through testing centre.
“A number of our players and staff have already been involved in a range of initiatives to support the NHS and also to help out in the local community during these challenging circumstances.”
Professor John Newton, national co-ordinator for the UK Coronavirus Testing Strategy, added: “New testing sites such as this one are a key pillar of our five-pillar plan to scale up testing, and are critical in supporting NHS staff who are isolating at home to return safely to work if the test is negative.
“This is a brilliant example of industries and businesses turning their resources to creating and rolling out mass testing at scale, which will help to deliver on our aim of carrying out 100,000 tests a day across the UK by the end of the month.”
Image: Mercedes-Benz Stadium