In a year marred with so many challenges, there’s a sense of comfort and normalcy brought to us by sports. Again and again, sports has proven to be the enabler of opportunities for our youth, the bridge that connects individuals, and the economic driver that powers positive outcomes for communities throughout the United States. That’s why it’s so important that we get our venues back on their feet and open again.
Wherever your facility is in the journey to re-opening and recovery, it will take thoughtful strategy and tactics to ensure that a safe and operationally-efficient environment is established for both guests and staff.
In part one of our article on re-opening a sports destination, we discussed the importance of communication during this process and provided tips for doing so effectively. In our second and final part, we will provide insight on how to be adaptable and innovative during this time and provide tips for creating the type of opportunities that can help you better serve your community.
Youth sports during the COVID-19 pandemic has been an ever-evolving ride for sports destinations. What we think we know one month can be completely refuted or deemed unnecessary the following month. At the SFM Network, our primary way of tackling this issue was to create a committee of facility operators and subject matter experts to collect ideas, discuss them, test them out, and provide feedback. The committee develops best practices, stays abreast of changes in state and local policies and makes changes, when needed.
Adaptability is important on the ground as well. Lori Moore, an SFM account executive who oversees operations at numerous venues, including Rocky Top Sports World in Gatlinburg, TN, discussed the importance of making changes quickly when needed. “Initially, we closed bleachers for an event, which worked great the first day, but on the second day people started gathering to be in the shade. We decided then to open the bleachers so people can get shade and stay socially distant.”
Of course, your budget must be adaptable as well. Re-opening phase changes, cancellations, and labor force changes, among others, all impact your budget and are all fluid during this time period. Weekly examinations of your profit & loss statements and the situation as a whole will be critical. Items such as the PPP loan program and the availability of other forms of aid will also play a part in operations and budgeting going forward.
Through adversity comes innovation. The COVID-19 pandemic has led us to rethink of how sports facilities can be operated and promoted. It’s also led us to develop new practices that meet local and state mandates and accommodate changes in consumer preferences. At Rocky Top, landscaping is being creatively used as dividers to control traffic flow in and out of their facilities.
Another area where innovation will prove critical is in food & beverage operations, where features such as text and cashless ordering are likely to become more prevalent.
Finally, innovation can be seen in programming. While sports are still not allowed to be played in some parts of the country, programs that engage families, such as family movies nights provides a service to the community are being developed.
Just as adversity can breed innovation, the same can be said about opportunity: you have to see it and swiftly take advantage of it when the time comes. In many parts of the country, parents have decided to pursue an eLearning option for their children. However, balancing eLearning and full-time work can be difficult. This presents an opportunity for sports facilities to provide solutions for families.
Apex Sports & Events in Hillsborough, NJ, students can participate in their Remote Day Learning Camp. Along with being able to take class in various workstations throughout the 200,000 square-foot facility, students can take advantage of Iron Peak’s 14-obstacle Ninja Course, a 17-obstacle Aerial Ropes course, or their four basketball courts.
Additionally, Jessica Kuhl, an SFM account executive who oversees several SFM Network venues, discussed the potential of having events during what’s typically been the off-season for sports destinations. “Event rights holders want to reschedule events. If they cancel, they don’t have an income, said Kuhl. “Be flexible. Youth and amateur sports are changing in good ways. With everyone rescheduling, we may see events at times that are usually quiet like from August to December.”
At the Sports Facilities Companies, we believe in the power of sports to achieve health and economic outcomes for communities everywhere. We know it’s important to re-open the doors your sports destination and can provide guidance in helping you achieve that successfully. Contact us today at 727-474-3845.