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COVID-19 venue news: Hard Rock Stadium, Dodger Stadium and more

Hard Rock Stadium

Hard Rock Stadium, the home of NFL American football team the Miami Dolphins, has revealed plans to introduce The Outdoor Theaters.

The stadium precinct will feature both an open-air and drive-in theatre that will showcase classic Dolphins content from the team’s 54-year history, classic films, host commencement ceremonies and other events.

The venture will seek to provide a unique environment while staying in accordance with social distance policies during COVID-19. The drive-in events will be held inside of Hard Rock Stadium and accommodate up to 230 cars, while the open-air theatre is designed to host small groups for an intimate viewing experience on the complex’s south plaza.

Restrooms will be open during events, with an online ordering and delivery system provided for the purchase of food and drinks. “We’ve spent several weeks planning this to be able to provide people with a safe option to go out and enjoy movies, classic Dolphins content, concerts, and celebrate 2020 graduates,” said Miami Dolphins and Hard Rock Stadium vice-chairman and CEO Tom Garfinkel.

“It’s a fundamental human need to physically experience and celebrate events and experiences together, and we’re trying to provide options for everyone where they can be safely socially distant and socially present at the same time.”

Dodger Stadium

Los Angeles County’s largest COVID-19 testing site has opened at Dodger Stadium, home of Major League Baseball (MLB) franchise the LA Dodgers.

With the capacity to test 6,000 Angelenos a day free of charge, the site is three times larger than any of the other 35 locations in L.A. County. The Dodgers have contributed the space in their stadium parking lot, while Community Organized Response Effort (CORE) is dedicating 60 staff to help operate the site, which will be overseen by Los Angeles Fire Department.

The Dodgers have previously supported the city and county’s COVID-19 response by hosting a testing site that tested nearly 40,000 individuals over a 10-week period and serving as a staging area for the police and fire departments. In addition, the Dodgers and the Dodgers Foundation launched joint relief efforts in early April and have worked with team partners to provide more than 113,000 meals to the most vulnerable Angelenos and more than $150,000 (£122,000/€136,000) worth of food, water, hygiene necessities, gift cards and Dodger products to community organisations.

The team has also provided grants to the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, My Friend’s Place, the Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles, and Brotherhood Crusade with additional grants to be provided to organisations that address homelessness, basic needs and food insecurity.

“The Dodgers have and always will be a resource for the community, and we’re proud to partner with Mayor (Eric) Garcetti, LAFD and CORE on this important initiative,” said Dodgers president and CEO Stan Kasten.

“Dodger Stadium has hosted its share of memorable and historic events, but this could be one of the most significant – as it will help re-open Los Angeles and ultimately save lives.”

Garcetti’s office kicked off the city’s free public COVID-19 testing on March 20 –– and just 40 days after that step, Los Angeles had become the first major city in America to offer wide-scale testing to all residents, with or without symptoms. These sites are currently testing an average of 15,000 people per day, with about 450,000 people tested to date.

Shizuoka Stadium ECOPA

Japanese conglomerate Yamaha Corporation has announced the successful testing of a new system which aims to provide the atmosphere of a crowd at sporting events held behind closed doors.

Yamaha said that on May 13 it conducted a field test of its ‘Remote Cheerer powered by SoundUD’ system at Shizuoka Stadium ECOPA, with cooperation from J2 League club Júbilo Iwata and J1 League outfit Shimizu S-Pulse, two football clubs which call the 51,000-seat stadium home.

The system is designed to allow fans and supporters watching a game via TV, radio or live streaming to support the players by sending cheers to an event venue from their home or other remote location.

By tapping buttons on a smartphone app, cheering is distributed via speakers placed around the venue, and viewers can choose the area from which their audio is delivered.

While Yamaha said the system has potential applications for a variety of situations, testing was done with empty stadia in mind. System usability was tested by placing a total of 58 speaker units around the stadium and having users in multiple remote locations use smartphones to send cheers, applause or booing, in addition to clapping along with club chants.

This was the first time the system was used at an outdoor venue. Yamaha said the field test was able to verify the usability of the system as a means of supporting teams in competition while removing the associated risk of COVID-19 infection, while demonstrating the ability to create a spectator atmosphere similar to that of a real match by using separate audio transmission zones for each club without interfering with existing venue facilities or announcements.

Hiromi Yanagihara of the business strategy division at Jubilo Co said: “With the possibility of spectatorless matches and restrictions on cheering in mind, I feel that this system will encourage players on the field by making them feel like their fans and supporters are nearby. This technology is revolutionary for fans and supporters as well, as it allows them to root for their club’s players. Our club looks forward to further collaboration in order to be able to implement the system at future events.”

Yuki Seto of the SoundUD Group, Cloud Business Department at Yamaha Corporation, added: “We are working to promote this system as a means of delivering cheering and fan support in a wide variety of situations.

“This includes not only spectatorless matches, but also matches with reduced spectator seating or where shouting is not possible, as well as accommodating fans who can’t attend matches due to being hospitalised, busy taking care of children, etc.

“We look forward to continuing to work with not only league, club, and stadium personnel, but also with players, supporters, and fans as well in order to further improve the system and service.”

Mercedes-Benz Stadium

Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the home of NFL team Atlanta Falcons and Major League Soccer (MLS) outfit Atlanta United, is set to introduce mobile food and beverage ordering to aid the reintroduction of fans amid COVID-19.

AMB Group, the parent company which manages the stadium and teams, is working with Atlanta-based partner NCR to create a solution which will grant fans the ability to order from their seats using the mobile team app and then collect their purchases at designated concession areas inside the venue.

“We’re trying to see what we can do in that context that increases safety and convenience and most of all makes people feel more comfortable,” Dietmer Exler, AMB senior vice-president and chief operating officer, told the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

Mercedes-Benz Stadium went fully cashless last year and hopes to upgrade to mobile F&B ordering by 2021. AMB Group CEO Steve Cannon believes mobile ordering will ease the overall experience, as well as help fans avoid crowded areas in the wake of the pandemic.

“All I’ll do is walk up, show a code, pick up my stuff and then I’m back to my seat,” Cannon said. “That to me will be the next big move inside of venues like ours, and we’re going all in on that as well.”

Turf Moor

A temporary COVID-19 testing facility is set to be established this week at Turf Moor, home of English Premier League football club Burnley.

The site will be open to foot and vehicle traffic and anyone who is symptomatic and over five-years-old can be tested. It will operate from tomorrow (Thursday) through to Saturday.

Doug Metcalfe, stadium and operations manager at Burnley Football Club, said: “The club had previously made its facilities available to the NHS to cope with potential added demands of the pandemic and we remain fully committed to working with the local health authorities in any way to try and combat both the spread and the effects of COVID-19.

“We hope allowing the use of our stadium will allow the NHS and the Government to increase testing locally, help to identify those most at risk from the virus and take the next steps to defeating the virus.

“We will continue to work closely with Burnley Borough Council and Lancashire County Council, utilising our strong and close working relationship to support the unwavering efforts of everyone involved.”

Blue Wahoos Stadium/Volcanoes Stadium

Minor League Baseball (MiLB) teams Pensacola Blue Wahoos and Salem-Keizer Volcanoes have got creative in an effort to generate revenue streams during COVID-19 by listing their ballparks on online marketplace Airbnb.

The Blue Wahoos, an affiliate of MLB team Minnesota Twins, have made Blue Wahoos Stadium available for $1,500 per night, plus fees. This will provide up to 10 guests with access to the ballpark, including use of the team’s clubhouse, batting cage and field, along with a batting practice setup.

The listing reads: “Guests are welcome to hit from home plate, play catch in the outfield, run the bases, enjoy a picnic in the outfield, or find other creative uses for the field!”

Meanwhile, the Volcanoes, who are affiliated to the San Francisco Giants, have listed Volcanoes Stadium at $1,000 per night. The listing is targeting birthday parties, youth team events, company retreats or bachelor parties.

Club CEO Mickey Walker told local broadcaster KNBR that there have already been a “handful” of bookings and further inquiries since the listing went live at the weekend. He added: “We are excited to offer this once in a lifetime opportunity for our great fans.

“The ability to play on the same field and be in the same clubhouse as Buster Posey, Tim Lincecum, Pablo Sandoval, Sergio Romo, Ryan Vogelsong and the 106 former Volcanoes to make it to the big leagues is truly an unforgettable moment that we are happy to be able to provide.”

In July, Eden Park teamed up with Airbnb to bring stadium ‘glamping’ to New Zealand’s 60,000-capacity national stadium, in what it claimed as a first-of-its-kind across stadia.

Image: Hard Rock Stadium