ROUND ROCK, Texas - The painted lines put down at the Dell Diamond this past weekend were not for a ball game. The grid was part of a seating zone for the Granger Smith concert, which 2,600 attended.
"It was fun. It was fun to see a kind of normalcy coming back to our live,” said Round Rock Express President Chris Almendarez.
Having fun wasn’t the only thing on his mind. "The number one thing for me, was we've got to make a safe environment for the folks of Central Texas,” said Almendarez.
A video posted on social media by the Round Rock Express shows how the 6x6 foot seating pods in the outfield look from above the 11-acre complex.
There were 509 pods, but not every square was occupied. They were also limited to four people. In the bleachers, fans were given assigned seats. Images taken before the governor's statewide mask order shows the separation each group had in the stands.
"The Governor's mandate on wearing a mask on Friday actually helped us, because that forced folks to have a mask on,” said Almendarez.
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Capacity was initially set at 25 percent, but before the concert began, the number of tickets sold stopped at 15 percent. "Being the first event, one of the things we wanted to do was take baby steps,” said Almendarez.
The plan included one-way pedestrian traffic path for those entering, along with guided assistance for exiting.
"I met with our staff about an hour before we opened gates and I said, a lot of eyes are on us because we are going to do this,” said Almendarez.
The plan by the Round Rock Express could become a model for other upcoming events. Each element is important, but one apparently is crucial. "We had a zero-tolerance policy, if somebody doesn’t follow the rules, we are going to ask them politely to follow the rules, or we are going to ask them to get out of the stadium, that was one of the things Granger Smith and his group were on board with as well,” said Almendarez.
A big lesson learned during the Dell Diamond concert involved field access wrist bands, as handing them out caused long lines. That will probably change the next time. The plan has caught the attention of others in the entertainment industry.
"People are trying to be creative, and certainly I think what they did was appropriate,” said Bob Brecht with TSE Entertainment, a Houston based company with its own COVID-19 protocol which starts with the fan. "So I think educating people is going to be crucial."
Key points of the TSE Entertainment plan include:
- Face coverings
- No tents, so air flow is not restricted
- No large groups in front of stages
- Temperature checks and constant sanitizing surface, especially in restrooms
"All we can do is take the steps to reduce the spread of the virus, there is no 100 percent that’s going to stop the spread completely, what you don’t want is to end up with a super-spreader activity,” said Brecht.
As with the Dell Diamond plan, self-regulation is a key part and a big question as to if compliance can be dome now.
"The answer is, with the younger crowd it’s going to be risky, although we have to open up, but it’s going to be risky, there is no doubt about it,” said Brecht.
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