As the NBA and teams around the league look to retain revenue that could be lost in the upcoming season due to the ongoing pandemic, one question was whether fans would be allowed in arenas. For the Oklahoma City Thunder, fans will officially be allowed in limited capacity.
The Thunder, along with Chesapeake Energy Arena’s management company ASM Global, made this announcement in an official press release Tuesday evening, while also laying out their health and safety protocols for the upcoming season that starts on December 22. Health and safety measures for game and event nights will include six-foot seating distance between groups of guests, required face masks, established contactless, self-service ticket scanning and concession purchases, and mandated strict hygiene and disinfecting procedures throughout the building.
According the the release, the reopening health and safety measures include:
- Chesapeake Arena has upgraded its HVAC system to provide a higher quality of filtered air to meet ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers) Merv13 standards.
- Electrostatic sprayers will also be used to evenly disperse disinfectants across surfaces quickly and evenly.
- Common spaces will be subject to reduced capacity in order to best serve physical-distancing protocols, such as elevators, first aid rooms and restrooms.
- Additional staff will be dedicated to restrooms and other high-traffic areas, and the arena seating bowl will be fully disinfected prior to fan arrival.
- Hand sanitizer stations will be located throughout the arena.
- Face masks will be required of guests and staff to enter the venue and should be worn at all times, unless actively eating or drinking. This policy will be strictly monitored.
- Reduced seating capacity for all arena events, including Thunder games, allowing for proper and safe six-foot distance between groups of guests.
- Reduced capacity within arena bars and restaurants, with tables set six feet apart.
- Floor markers will be placed in all areas to help promote physical distancing of at least six feet.
- Full contactless mobile ticketing will be implemented for guests to use self-serve ticket scanners at all arena entrances, reducing points of contact with staff. Mobile tickets for Thunder games can be seamlessly accessed or transferred via the Thunder App or okcthunder.com
- Contactless scanners will be installed at all concession and merchandise locations to offer the ability to use credits cards without physically exchanging the card with staff. This technology has been put in place in an effort to transition to a fully cashless environment throughout the arena.
- Additional contactless payment options (Apple
AAPLPay, Google Wallet) will be available at every point of purchase.
- In preparation for event days, additional cleaning staff will available to facilitate increased cleaning and sanitization, with a focus on high-touch areas.
- A new mobile food and beverage ordering system, via the Thunder App, will allow ordering and paying via mobile phone and offering express pickup locations in an effort to maximize physical distancing in concessions lines.
- Plexiglass barriers will be installed at all concession stands to reduce contact between guests and employees.
- All Chesapeake Arena staff will undergo additional health and safety training prior to the NBA season. Staff will also be subject to temperature checks and will wear appropriate PPE such as face masks, gloves and goggles as needed during games and events.
Danny Barth, Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer for the Thunder, briefly discussed what went into making these decisions for the upcoming season.
“We remain focused on providing a safe and healthy environment for our guests as they return to enjoy the Thunder Basketball experience. We have worked in close collaboration with the City of Oklahoma City, arena management and local health authorities to develop and implement these important measures.”
While most teams haven’t made official announcements as to what their situation will be inside of arenas for the upcoming season, the Thunder have made it official that they will have at least some fans in attendance. As seen in the NFL, there is a chance that not every team follows this trend, as situations vary across the country when it comes to the severity of the pandemic.