In order to hold live events safely this year, the architect and engineering firm DLR Group says that venues may need to be renovated.
The firm told CNBC that they have already inquired about adjusting stadium layouts for social distancing, at least for the short term. Don Barnum of the DLR Group said that the changes shouldn’t be too costly, as “you just modify [the arenas]; take out the seats.” He noted that the firm had a “variety of conversations” with team owners who inquired about adjusting layouts. In order to analyze seating arrangements, the firm created renderings using a minor league baseball stadium.
These adjustments include “luxe box” seating, which includes four seats separated by six feet in all directions from other people in the seating bowl sections. Barnum, who designed the Pinnacle Bank Arena in Nebraska, said that in the short term, arenas could sell tickets to a certain number of people and have fans distance. This is similar to the checkerboard seating concept.
“If this becomes the new norm over two-to-five years, then I think [teams] would start removing those other seats and making that environment a fixed permanent one that creates that separation and distancing,” he said.
Barnum went on to note that if seating arrangements reflected the original 1900s versions of Chicago’s Wrigley Field and Boston’s Fenway Park, “that would allow teams to control the separation and not affect sightlines.”
If these changes went into place, every part of the arena would have to obey certain guidelines. Arena staff would need to monitor people as they enter the space with distributed arrival times, walkway directions would need to be placed on the ground, and concessions would run differently.
However, through it all, arenas would certainly lose revenue, as venues are created to hold max-capacity. The co-chair of international law firm O’Melveny, Irwin Raij, told CNBC that is “a problem they’re going to have to confront” and “teams are going to have to find alternative means or revenue generation outside of having in-person gatherings in arenas and stadiums.”
Currently, all sports leagues are in-talks of resuming their respective seasons. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said that football season will start on time with modifications, the NHL is considering different locations to complete their season, and NBA training facilities will reportedly open this week. Nonetheless, doctors are warning fans that sports stadiums may not hold fans until 2021.