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COVID-19 venue news: Croke Park, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Easter Road and more

Croke Park

Croke Park has lifted the lid on how its drive-through COVID-19 testing centre has become a benchmark for other sites across the Republic of Ireland.

Croke Park’s facility opened in mid-March, becoming the first temporary testing centre in North Dublin. Two weeks later, the stadium’s new handball and community centre opened as a ‘walk-up’ testing facility and both sites are currently open seven days a week, operating from 8am to 8pm.

The stadium’s events and operations teams have played an important role in facilitating the testing set-up. The stadium team has devised the event management plan that has subsequently been carried out at all other testing sites across Ireland.

Croke Park’s hospitality team, Aramark Ireland, is also on-site daily to prepare meals for health care workers across the two testing facilities.

Peter McKenna, stadium director at Croke Park, said: “Our collective efforts during these days is so important; it means that our local and hospital medical teams can then provide timely assistance to people who need it. We especially wish to thank our neighbours for their continued support during this time.”

Mercedes-Benz Stadium

Mercedes-Benz Stadium (pictured), home of NFL American football franchise the Atlanta Falcons and Major League Soccer (MLS) outfit Atlanta United, will become the latest sports venue to host a COVID-19 testing site.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper said the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, the family foundation of the Falcons and United owner, has teamed up with CORE Response, a non-profit organisation founded by actor Sean Penn for the venture.

The centre is set to operate at the Home Depot Backyard adjacent to the stadium, offering free tests from Monday to Friday. David Boden, a volunteer with CORE, said the organisation has operated around half a dozen sites in southern California. The Atlanta centre will offer both a drive-through and walk-up service.

State Representative Mark Newton, a physician who helped organise the testing site, said it will serve people with COVID-19 symptoms, health workers, first responders and asymptomatic food service workers. Earlier this week, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp authorised restaurants in the state to open, albeit with restrictions. “Offering it (testing) to asymptomatic food service workers is a big step forward and very timely for Georgia,” Newton said.

Mercedes-Benz Stadium last month became the latest major US sports venue to adapt its food and beverage services to aid the local community during COVID-19.

Easter Road

Scottish Premiership football club Hibernian has agreed a new partnership with merchant service provider Sporting Pay which it says will aid the smooth reintroduction of fans to its Easter Road Stadium.

The four-year deal, which the Edinburgh team states is worth a “substantial sum” to the club, will include the introduction of a new Electronic Point of Sale (EPOS) system for Easter Road’s new-look kiosks and hospitality offerings, with the inner bowl to become a cashless stadium.

Greg McEwan, head of marketing and brand partnerships at Hibernian, said: “We have been continuing to look at ways of providing the fans the cleanest environment possible for when they return to Easter Road Stadium after this war against coronavirus and this fantastic partnership with Sporting Pay allows us to become a cashless stadium, which is a big step in the right direction by taking away the handling of cash, one of the biggest transmitters of germs.”

Sporting Pay’s other clients include Lord’s Cricket Ground and Edgbaston Cricket Ground. Chris Norminton, managing director of Sporting Pay, added: “Understanding your business and payment needs is essential at this current time and we are looking to work with local businesses in and around Edinburgh, who can all benefit from the same great rates as the club as part of the commercial partnership.”

University of Bolton Stadium

A drive-thru COVID-19 testing centre has been established outside the University of Bolton Stadium, home of English League One football club Bolton Wanderers.

Testing at the site will be for key workers who have displayed symptoms of the virus in the past three days, along with those who live with key workers and have suspected symptoms.

A Bolton Council spokesman told The Bolton News newspaper: “We have been working closely with our partners in the health service to set up a local COVID-19 testing centre for essential workers in Bolton.

“Self-swab tests will be available by appointment only at the drive through centre. After an initial pilot period, testing will be rolled out to essential workers in the borough.”

Image: Mercedes-Benz Stadium