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Social Distancing on Outdoor Bleachers

We want to propose possible methods that would allow for some type of spectatorship so safe events can be held.

It has been a repeated mantra, “bend the curve” or “flatten the curve”. We share a concern for our fellow man also. However, the goal has not been to prevent all infections at any cost. Defining an acceptable infection rate would be helpful. Each state will have to do that for itself.

We feel that outdoor events provide some terrific opportunities for “opening up” as the summer season approaches. With some precautions that we will suggest, we think this could be done very safely. We hope to begin the conversations that others can build on to allow such events this summer.

Most people sitting on bleachers at events come in family groups of various sizes.

Family groups sit together. Other families, or groups of friends, should sit with at least one row and preferably two rows of space between groups vertically. Keeping 6’ between groups horizontally.

  • Maybe diamond shapes could be blocked off on bleachers to force space.
  • Bleacher capacity will be about 25% to 30% of the rated capacity.
  • May require ushers to ensure spacing.
  • May need to stop traffic to bleachers and allow limited numbers to locate seats at a time.
  • Additional gates or entry access points.
  • Social distancing would be required in the line.
  • More than a normal seating capacity may be required to fit enough people for producers to be profitable.
  • Post pictures and diagrams of seating spacing along the line and at bleachers for example.
  • May require extra concession counters.
  • It may require extra bathroom facilities.
  • Added precautions like temperature scanning on the way in and asking anyone that shows symptoms to leave may be advisable.
  • Limited access to indoor areas associated with events.

It is hard to overestimate the mental health aspect of being able to attend social events, sporting events, or outdoor entertainment of all sorts. Outdoor gatherings minimize the health risk of proximity. Graduations, County Fairs, carnivals, auctions, concerts, other music events, plays, ceremonial events, religious gatherings, etc.

Other events, such as parades, could benefit from the use of bleachers to help spread people out. Instead of three or four rows of people crowded up to the curb to see, bleachers would allow better viewing for many. Easy to set up, temporary bleacher seating is available to rent in many places. Some are highway towable and set up in 15 minutes. Others are temporarily assembled in place and take more time to set up and remove.

Regarding COVID-19 the Department of Homeland Security states, “Virus decays faster in high humidity and temperature, much faster in sunlight.” We think there are still plenty of questions to ask. There are several events that were being held outdoors in late February and March that could provide some anecdotal evidence. Some of these seem to have not added significantly to the spread. It seems like the differences in behavior and customs at different events could be teased out to see what works and what didn’t. None of them were exercising the kinds of controls we suggested above.

With more research, there may be an opportunity to discover real evidence.

We hope this has started the wheels turning in your head about how events could happen. Getting our government officials involved early in this thought process will be critical to opening things up this summer. We want to show that it could be possible to have outdoor gatherings in a socially responsible way.

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