Washington, DC, 05 16 19. An usher cleans seats before the start of a Washington Nationals baseball game at Nationals Park in Washington, DC.

Contributed By Art Rodriguez, Vice President of Operations, Sports and Entertainment – National, ABM

The live sports and entertainment industry is finally emerging from the sudden, prolonged closures and cancellations caused by the pandemic. Capacity restrictions are slowly lifting, concerts are back on the calendar, and many fans are eager to get back in the stands. 

The safety and cleanliness of these facilities will be top of mind for those fans, as well as for staff, players, performers and event personnel. Thankfully, venue operators have the advantage of leveraging several months worth of disinfection wisdom acquired during the pandemic. Incorporate these five elements into the operations to maintain a healthier venue:

1. Authoritative Guidance

The guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) should be the starting point for any disinfection program. The challenge is translating their guidance into practical protocols and staying on top of their latest information. 

As experts learned more about COVID-19 and how it’s transmitted, the CDC, WHO and OSHA changed their recommendations. Venue operators should expect that more updates will be issued in the future and be prepared to adapt.

2. Occupant Assurance

Cleanliness and safety are top of mind for all building occupants. At a time when labor can be hard to find, it’s vital that employees feel safe coming to work. 

Likewise, fans have their concerns: In March of 2021, nearly two-thirds of Americans said that attending a sporting event represents a large or moderate risk. But, that’s 20 percent less than the number of fans who had reservations about sporting events in May of 2020. As fans become more open to attending events, venue operators can help them along by implementing visible disinfection protocols.

To demonstrate the commitment to building health, cleaning personnel should be seen cleaning high-touch points and restocking hygiene supplies, such as hand sanitizer and soap. Also promote the cleaning program with signage and literature that indicates which areas have been disinfected. When fans and employees can see that workers are creating a healthy facility, it makes both the public image and employer brand more attractive.

3. Training

Proper disinfection is a precise process, and cleaning personnel must understand how it differs from their typical cleaning tasks. Other personnel, such as parking attendants and ushers will also need training on how to minimize hand-to-hand contact and maintain safe distances with guests and each other. 

In some instances, they may also be using disinfection supplies to clean their areas. Since these employees typically don’t use cleaning supplies, they’ll need training on how to use it safely and effectively.

4. Pre- and Post-Event Protocols

To ensure that the facility is ready for each event, the disinfection program should start before fans enter the venue and continue after they leave. Incorporate additional pre- and post-event measures to minimize the potential spread of infection. These precautions can be as simple as propping open bathroom doors to reduce touch points, or they can be as advanced as using electrostatic spraying for broader disinfection.

5. It All Starts with a Facility Assessment

Even if the venue was partially open to serve as a testing and vaccination site, it’s a good idea to create a long-term plan for how to address facility health. We should assume that occupant concerns will persist well after the pandemic is over. A facility assessment will help identify which practices should become a regular part of the cleaning program, along with the supplies and personnel needed to implement them. Whether choosing to work with an external cleaning expert or perform the tasks in-house, the assessment will set the foundation to create a healthier venue where occupants feel safe to work and visit.

Art Rodriguez is Vice President of Operations, Sports and Entertainment at ABM. He previously held the title of branch manager in Los Angeles, California, for more than 13 years. His deep industry knowledge and expertise regarding ABM’s Sports and Entertainment division led to a new position exclusively managing clients in this vertical market. Rodriguez has worked in the janitorial industry for more than 30 years. A 1993 veteran of the United States Marine Corps, he served in Operation Desert Storm and Desert Shield from 1990-1991.