BB&T Center, home of the Florida Panthers, has become the first National Hockey League (NHL) arena to achieve the International WELL Building Institute’s (IWBI) WELL Health-Safety Rating for Facility Operations and Management.

The certification, which has been confirmed by third-party verifier, Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI), recognises BB&T Center’s adherence to the IWBI’s stringent guidelines and protocols for combatting COVID-19 and preparedness to safely accommodate fans upon reopening.

BB&T Center is the state’s first sports and entertainment venue to achieve this certification. “The health and safety of our BB&T Center family, guests and community is the single most important thing as we look towards reopening our doors,” said Florida Panthers chief operating officer Sean McCaffrey.

“Achieving the WELL Health-Safety Rating, which serves as the global benchmark for best operating procedures to help combat COVID-19, is a testament to our team’s tireless efforts, led by BB&T Center general manager, Tom Embrey, to ensure the safest possible environment for our guests, players and employees when we reopen.”

The WELL Health-Safety Rating leverages IWBI Task Force on COVID-19 insights and guidance on the spread of the virus, as well as other respiratory infections, from the World Health Organization (WHO), U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), global disease control and prevention centres and emergency management agencies, and leading academic and research institutions, as well as recognised standard-making associations such as ASTM International and ASHRAE.

The WELL Health-Safety Rating recognises the Panthers and BB&T Center’s achievements across five core areas focusing on operational policies, cleaning and maintenance protocols, design strategies, stakeholder engagement, and emergency preparedness in the wake of COVID-19, now and into the future.

Rachel Hodgdon, president and CEO of WELL, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored how critically important it is to prioritise health and safety in the spaces where we gather. By achieving the WELL Health-Safety Rating, the Florida Panthers and BB&T Center have demonstrated incredible leadership in directly supporting the health, safety and overall wellbeing of players, fans, employees and their broader community.”

The NHL completed its 2019-20 season in September utilising centralised hubs in the Canadian cities of Toronto and Edmonton, but a solid plan has yet to be put in place for the 2020-21 campaign. The Associated Press news agency reported yesterday (Tuesday) that the League is preparing to open the season on January 13, with training camps to commence on New Year’s Day.

However, players are said to be unhappy at proposals to change the terms of their collective bargaining agreement with the League, while scheduling and COVID-19 testing protocols are also still to be determined. “We are certainly continuing to work through all the issues we would need to resolve to start a season,” said NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly.

The League is said to be targeting a regular season of between 50 to 60 games, with a one-off all-Canadian division expected to solve the problem of cross-border travel. It is also unclear how many of the 31 teams will be able to play in their own arenas.