Sports venues turn to technology to implement re-opening guidelines


As spring begins and the Covid-19 vaccine rollout across the US is in full swing, restrictions on indoor and outdoor gatherings are slowly being eased. Restrictions at Major League Baseball stadiums range from a low of 12% capacity at Boston’s Fenway Park to 100 percent occupancy at Globe Life Park in Texas.

Generally, most outdoor sports venues are capped between 20 and 30 percent, while indoor arenas remain at about 10% capacity, with restrictions such as negative rapid tests, proof of vaccination, mandatory mask wearing, social distancing and temperature checks in place. These are all good proactive safety measures, but we can do more by leveraging technology to help with a safe and secure return to public spaces.

While Broadway remains shuttered, hope is on the horizon for smaller venues, with places like New York allowing 33 percent capacity, or up to 100 people indoors and 200 outdoors. As these restrictions are eased, venues should turn to technology to aid in the implementation and enforcement of attendance safety measures.

Re-opening facilities and re-introducing audiences to new venue attendance protocols will be a slow and meticulous process that will require not only measures to protect the physical health of patrons, but also ease concerns attendees have about venue safety and their fellow eventgoers. A recent survey by Populous/Navigate revealed that a third of those polled still have reservations about going to large indoor or outdoor events, even if all attendees have been vaccinated. And in a corporate responsibility survey conducted by JP Morgan, an astonishing 60% of respondents are most concerned about security and safety when returning to indoor spaces.

The Shed, the new flexible arts center on Manhattan’s West Side, recently implemented GoGuide, a technology solution for safe, secure visitor reentry, as part of its reopening strategy.

The venue, which at full capacity can accommodate more than 2,000 people in its largest space, will be resuming live performances in April as New York State eases restrictions on the performing arts. It will be employing enhanced health and safety protocols, including GoGuide, for socially distanced audiences of up to 150 people seated.

Developed by Thornton Tomasetti in partnership with PMY Group and Intel Corporation, GoGuide integrates with a building’s existing systems to enhance visitor safety and security. The Shed will be using GoGuide for capacity monitoring building-wide as well as for individual spaces.

The data-driven platform supports a safe and secure re-entry to public venues using existing technologies and AI processing engines. It can support contactless entry, ordering, and payments for a positive patron experience. GoGuide also provides modeling for airflow and air quality in confined spaces supporting a “healthy indoors” and clean air environment.

In addition to addressing the needs of cultural facilities like The Shed, GoGuide technology can be customized to meet the specific requirements of sports and event facilities, commercial buildings, and educational campuses as specified by Thornton Tomasetti’s Protective Design & Security team. GoGuide provides venues of all sizes with the ability to set and affirm safety standards for visitors and staff. PMY recently employed a variation of GoGuide for the organizers of various sporting events and venues, which was hailed as a positive step to precision contact trace and support a return to public space players, staff, and patrons.

The good news is that most modern stadiums, arenas and other entertainment venues already have the existing technological infrastructure to implement this re-opening platform. GoGuide integrates with a facility’s existing security systems. It employs reusable Bluetooth low energy (BLE) and radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags to support the ticketing process, and pairs with electronic ticketing apps to transmit personal device alerts and instructions. The BLE/RFID tags can be personalized for members, season ticket holders, staff, and visitors with disabilities. And they can be programmed – for durations as brief as a single sporting or cultural event or as long as a concert season or academic semester. One of GoGuide’s technology capabilities has integrated with major ticketing organizations creating an even more seamless patron experience.

Initially many venues are using GoGuide to manage crowd density safely and effectively. However, the technology also has uses beyond pandemic response. An additional feature is the potential to apply radio-frequency ID (RFID) capabilities for real-time interaction with AI-based art exhibitions. The RFID tags are similar to those used by runners to track their time during races. In the context of an art exhibition, patrons could opt-in to carry an RFID-enabled ticket or device that allowed interactive exhibits based on the patron’s location and possibly other data points to be incorporated into the experience.

This solution uses technology based on years of experience developing security protocols for cultural centers, arenas, stadiums and public spaces around the world for the duty of care responsibilities for the venue owner/operator, while also protecting the personal information of the visitor or patron.

Technology such as GoGuide will play an important role in the slow process of returning the venue, office, facility experience to “normal” in the months ahead. It will also fundamentally change the entire event attending experience from ticketing to egress as stadiums and arenas continue to rethink and redefine the experience for future generations.

Associate Principal Bill Edwards leads Thornton Tomasetti’s Security Design & Consulting group. A retired U.S. Army Colonel, Bill is an ASIS Board Certified CPP, PSP, and PCI.


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