Tips for Re-Opening a Sports Destination, Part 1

“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” When Mike Tyson quoted these words in advance of a classic bout with Evander Holyfield in 1990, he had no idea of the enduring truth these words would represent 30 years later. The Coronavirus pandemic has left countless plans on the mat both personally and as a society. As with many businesses, youth sports destinations have felt the stinging blows of long term closures and the uncertainty of the re-opening process.

Thankfully, this is an evolving story. A recovery is emerging as sports facilities are slowly re-opening throughout the United States with some experiencing successful months of programming and events already. You certainly can’t underestimate the power of sports in terms of giving people a sorely needed sense of normalcy. And it’s for this reason that we at the SFM Network and others in our industry believe that youth sports will be a key component in the fight for our nation’s economic revival. However, recovery can only take place with strategic planning. Planning that considers the ever-evolving landscape that has become the new normal in our society.

In this two-part series, we will provide tips to consider when re-opening your sports facility. This advice comes from best practices and lessons learned from SFM Network facilities as well as information shared in our recent webinar with Sports ETA and Grand Park Sports Campus titled, “Planning for The Re-Opening of Facilities.” This first part will focus on communication and cleaning practices and identify a critical ally in the re-opening process.

Continuous communication with all audiences

So much of successfully re-opening your sports facility will be predicated on how you tell the story to your audience. While you will commit to best practices and state and local mandates, your communication will determine consumer confidence and ensure alignment with stakeholders. In our COVID-19 Response & Reopen Guide, we provide lists of specific information that should be shared with several important audiences. This includes:

  • Tips for correspondence with owners, stakeholders, and guests: It’s critical that this group understands the details of your reopening plan and is able to give feedback. Additionally, it’s important to work with your local health board to ensure that the communication of policies and procedures are in keeping with their guidelines. Communication to be shared with these groups include:
    • Facility owner letter
    • COVID-19 guidelines
    • An FAQ for parents/customers
    • Venue diagram showing adjustments made to encourage social distancing 
    • Equipment and supplies order sheet 
    • Summary of re-opening strategy 
    • List of additional labor needs 
    • List of recommended signage
  • Interactions with Staff/Internal Operations: Re-opening your sports facility during this time is an unprecedented venture, it’s critical that your entire team is on the same page with the plan that’s been set forth. While this alignment won’t guarantee that there won’t be hiccups, your recovery from any mistakes will be shorter. Communication items for staff and internal operations include:
    • COVID-19 guidelines
    • A re-opening checklist
    • An FAQ for parents/customers
    • Equipment and supplies order sheet
    • Venue diagram showing adjustments made to encourage social distancing
    • Summary of approved cleaning chemicals and supplies
    • Signage art/wording
    • Additions to operations manual
    • Food & beverage operations guide
  • Response to a positive COVID test result: The unfortunate reality is that someone that was in your facility may later contract COVID-19. It’s crucial to be proactive in your communication to ensure that all important parties are aware and that they know the measures that you’ve put in place to maintain a safe environment. Communication steps include: 
    • Disclosure to guests, staff, and event rights holders that they may have been in contact with someone who was diagnosed with the Coronavirus
    • Collaboration with your local health organization to facilitate contact tracing
    • Sanitation process, including testing staff and cleaning the facility
    • Making a statement to the media about the occurrence and measures being put in place to protect staff and guests

Additionally, it’s important to connect with your convention and visitor’s bureau and your city’s public information officer so that your messaging is aligned in this matter.

In terms of onsite communication, Jessica Kuhl, an SFM account executive who oversees several SFM Network venues, said that it’s critical to communicate constantly with guests. “There is never enough signage. It’s also critical to keep asking guests how they are doing. Do they feel safe?" We continue to communicate with them, so they feel comfortable at the venue. By doing this, word of mouth will start to get around that our facilities are "safe.”

Working with your Local Board of Health

Bruce Rector, the Sports Facilities Companies chief legal counsel, noted the importance of working with your local health board in advance of re-opening and implementing actions based on their feedback. The reasons are twofold. One working with your local health board can lead to them becoming an advocate for your venue when you re-open, which can make the path easier. Second, if a case does occur with someone who’d been in your facility, they will already understand how your facility is set up.

Intense Focus on Cleaning

One of the primary factors in maintaining a safe environment for staff and guests is your cleaning process and procedures. It will likely take on a larger portion of your labor costs and budget for the foreseeable future. It’s important to prepare for that reality. Additionally, even if your facility starts to receive good reviews, it’s critical that you maintain this process at a high level.

It’s not only important that you place an emphasis on cleaning but that your guests know this as well. Consider having cleaning staff wear safety vests or continually communicating to guests when and where cleaning is taking place. 

The team as the Sports Facilities Companies can guide your sports through the re-opening process so that you are an even more effective facility on the other end. To learn more, contact us today at 727-474-3845.