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DHL Stadium shares lessons learnt during pandemic

Innovation and sustainability initiatives have proven key to DHL Stadium navigating the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Lesley de Reuck, chief executive of the Cape Town venue.

The onset of the pandemic led to hard lockdown restrictions in South Africa, with unemployment rising across the country. Events were held without spectators or cancelled outright as COVID-19 had a devastating impact on the global sports market.

While restrictions were gradually eased in South Africa, travel guidelines meant that tourists from overseas were unable to visit the country. This led to Cape Town Tourism focusing on domestic travellers to sustain the industry in the city.

“Our pocket-friendly campaign aimed to inspire South Africans and locals to get out and about in Cape Town, no matter how much or how little they have to spend,” said Briony Brookes, head of public relations and communications for Cape Town Tourism.

“We launched our Pocket Friendly challenge aimed at our domestic travellers which saw various hidden gems in six episodes showcasing the neighbourhoods of Langa, Athlone, Kalk Bay, Sea Point, Kirstenbosch and Blouberg.”

Last year, Cape Town was named Africa’s Leading City Destination at the World Travel Awards, while Table Mountain was honored as Africa’s Leading Tourist Attraction. Cape Town was also awarded the title of the World’s Leading Festival and Event Destination.

With a capacity of 62,000, DHL Stadium was built for the 2010 FIFA World Cup and now hosts various sports and music concerts. Logistics company DHL Express formally sealed a multi-year naming-rights partnership with the stadium last year.

Western Province Rugby also moved to DHL Stadium last year in a major boost for the venue, which recently added 168 hospitality suites to bolster its existing infrastructure. The first-ever United Rugby Championship Grand Final will also take place at DHL Stadium on June 18.

DHL Stadium’s new 2,100-seat business lounge has been designed to appeal to sports fans, business networkers and families alike, with membership guaranteeing ticket holders selected same-seat location in a newly renovated shared hospitality space directly above the halfway line.

The stadium hosts the annual Cape Town Sevens rugby event and has staged concerts from the likes of U2, Ed Sheeran, One Direction and Lady Gaga in the past. In 2020, the venue set a world record attendance for a tennis match as 51,954 fans turned out for an exhibition event between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

In 2021, DHL Stadium hosted the entire Test series between South Africa and the British & Irish Lions, albeit without fans as COVID-19 restrictions remained in place. A number of steps were taken to ensure the stadium was capable of dealing with the challenges presented by the pandemic.

De Reuck (pictured) said: “DHL Stadium is a world-leading multi-purpose facility with a technologically advanced intelligent and sophisticated Building Management System–Human Machine Interface (BMS-HMI).

“The operating system ensures that all facility operations are centrally controlled and operated with automated monitoring and control to stadium systems. These include fire, CCTV, access control, air-conditioning, ventilation, plumbing and drainage, electrical, lifts and sprinklers.”

The system accesses its own servers and incorporates graphical representation on a virtual platform, indicating respective stadium levels according to its built design. The system includes a wide range of network control units, data analytics and safety and security features.

DHL Stadium also recently finalised its environmental and event sustainability policy directive and strategy, which aims to substantially reduce its carbon footprint and energy consumption in the next three years.

During the pandemic, the stadium rolled out a QR health ID code for stadium staff and specific events, while encouraging event organisers to use online ticketing solutions.

DHL Stadium holds a partnership with SKIDATA South Africa, which in 2020 introduced ‘touchless’ and ‘wave’ technologies to obtain a parking ticket, as well as other ticketless and cashless solutions. SKIDATA South Africa also developed its ‘scan to pay’ solution via a mobile smart phone and the Masterpass app.

With COVID-19 restrictions having been relaxed in South Africa, DHL Stadium is scheduled to host a number of marquee events this year, including a Justin Bieber concert in September.

Justin Van Wyk, chief executive of event promoter Big Concerts, said: “Event operational plans are essential to making an event successful and memorable. The venue needs to be well maintained, service providers need to be experienced, and everyone needs to be focused on the fan experience.

“DHL Stadium is perfect in this regard. It is a world-class venue in the most beautiful location with its breathtaking views, architecture, culture, amazing restaurants and first-class hospitality.

“DHL Stadium is also easily accessible to all attending an event. It offers wide-ranging facilities and services, and the core management team has remained with the venue since its inception. The future is bright.”

Main image: DHL Stadium