WILMETTE, Ill. — This month we will examine how the sports industry plans to reopen for business following the lengthy shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the economy begins to open up slowly, there are many factors affecting its return.
There is no clear road map of how to return to racing and guidelines presented by governmental and health-care officials may have conflicting messages. The near term is full of uncertainty, but a measured approach to reopening is most likely the path to success.
Public health officials are urging entities to implement procedures to slow the spread of the virus, mitigate its resurgence and prepare for the possibility of outbreaks.
Sports leagues and venue owners are developing policies and procedures that will define how to move forward. Stakeholders, including tracks, teams, sponsors, media and related entities, are part of the planning process.
It is not important to be the “first” track to open or series to race, but to be “responsible” in establishing and following a set of best practices for the motorsports community.
It is important to be safe as the racing returns. Keeping everyone protected is the first priority.
The key to any plan is to establish a dialogue with public authorities, who are responsible for the reopening. Communication is the key.
The initial plans are to reopen without fans and then move toward allowing spectators at a reduced capacity. This will allow for adequate and safe social distancing.
Seating rows are being alternated and directional arrows will direct traffic flow through the gates, midways and grandstands.
Digital apps and electronic payments for tickets and concessions will minimize the need for currency and direct contact between spectators and vendors.
Signage posted at track entrances will let fans know about changes around the facility and remind them that individuals experiencing symptoms should stay at home.
The limited basis of operations will allow minimal interaction and a preliminary assessment of each aspect of the event. Ever-changing conditions will dictate how best to proceed and whether to postpone or cancel a race.
Employee health has its own unique challenges due to the potential interaction with a large number of people at the track. Training is mandatory in order to implement new policies and procedures.
Tracks must provide an adequate supply of sanitation products for proper personal hygiene.
Surfaces must be clean and disinfected on a regular basis. This sanitation may be a challenge in a dirt-track environment.
Face masks or coverings may be recommended by local authorities and venues are encouraged to provide masks to those who do not have their own.
Sharing of tools or equipment should be avoided. If possible, tools should be cleaned after each use. Alternate entry and exit times for fans and crews should be implemented to minimize interaction.
Competition on the track will be different. The arrival and staging of vehicles will be pre-arranged to minimize interaction. Garages and pit lanes will be designed to maximize social distancing.
Media and broadcast operations will be adjusted to follow proper guidelines. The use of technology during the shutdown has proven that quality content can be produced under less than desirable circumstances.
The unique characteristics of racing present many challenges. The focused nature of competition and the ability to adapt to changing scenarios will allow racing to succeed upon its return.