One Plan’s foolproof seating bowl (plan)


OnePlan - Paul Foster editorial Image: OnePlan


How 3 centimeters and 5 minutes could save football

COVID-19 seesaw is on majorly in Europe and majority of countries world over are still fighting a hard battle with the fatal respiratory disease. Amid the entire coronavirus catastrophe, stadia are slowly starting to reopen and allowing fans through the gates. But, the greatest challenge before venue operators is that while sticking to Government regulations and according highest priority to spectators’ safety, they also need to formulate and implement strategies that keep the financial wheels well-oiled.

Establishing the maximum social distancing seating bowl capacity is not an easy task and is quite a complex process. There exist over one hundred trillion possible seating combinations when taking into account social distancing, brush-past, fans’ ticket buying pattern, and the physical dimensions of a seating section. Few ticket providers and leagues have taken a blanket, percentage approach or have simply applied a set distance between occupied seats, which sets a limit on stadium occupancy thus leading to less gate-related earnings.

It is here that OnePlan’s seating bowl assessment comes into play. OnePlan provides advanced seating bowl capacity analysis which meets any country’s social distancing requirements. The assessment is flexible to take account of various operational and commercial inputs and can be run multiple times to test various scenarios.

OnePlan is the venue and event site planning platform that combines all other mapping and visual planning tools into one. Over 800 venues and events in 46 countries now use the OnePlan platform to plan their operations. It creates a digital environment for venues, suppliers and event hosts to interact collaboratively to develop site plans in real-time.

OnePlan has been developed in collaboration with some of the leading event and crowd safety experts in the world. It provides a cloud-based solution for venues, suppliers and stakeholders to automate the planning, implementation and management of events seamlessly and affordably solving critical event management challenges.

Paul Foster, CEO and Founder, OnePlan, UK, who was also crowd management advisor to five Olympic Games, explained the working of the OnePlan system and how it is being adopted by top-flight clubs and organizations in United Kingdom and United States – “Seating bowl assessment provides a bespoke model which can be used for any seating bowl, in any type of venue and can consider individual need and seat dimensions. The OnePlan system has been employed by English Premier League Clubs, the National Basketball Association (NBA) and Major League Baseball (MLB) teams and stadia and arenas all over the world to establish their seating capacity with social distancing. As a result of undertaking multiple assessments, OnePlan is able to identify which factors have the greatest impact on seating occupancy.”

Paul Foster, CEO & Founder, OnePlan, UK, is a Member of Coliseum – Global Sports Venue Alliance.

The 3cm angle

Foster explains that a typical avant-garde stadium in UK boasts seat width often of 500mm with an 800mm seat row depth. This results in a diagonal of 947mm, 53mm below the current UK minimum social distancing guideline of 1 meter. In this scenario, spectators will not be able to occupy diagonal seats in the stadium as shown in Figure 1. This translates into an average occupancy of around 23 percent.

He points out that most venues operating at 23 percent capacity does not bode well for their financial health, particularly taking into account the need to maintain full services and keep open all entry points to avoid overcrowding. Figure 1 below highlights the overlapping in bubbles on the diagonal.

OnePlan - Paul Foster editorialImage: OnePlan

Foster added, “However, if the diagonal social distancing rule was reduced by just 3cm, but the front to back and side to side social distancing rule at 1 meter was maintained, the impact would be significant as stadium occupancy would increase by up to 25 percent.” More occupancy in venues means more revenue.

Figure 2 below shows the output of a seating block assessment with the diagonal social distancing rule reduced by just 3cm. The occupancy increases to 51.48 percent. This particular model run allows seats to be occupied at the end of rows, however, the rules within the model can be adjusted to take account of these not being occupied.

OnePlan - Paul Foster editorialImage: OnePlan


The 5 minutes angle

In a COVID-struck planet, half time on a gameday is an obvious area of concern because the whole angle of maintaining social distancing comes to the fore. Fans just have 15 minutes to visit toilets or concession areas if they do not want to miss out on the pitch action. Most supporters will be in a tearing hurry to ensure they get back to their seats for the second half, most will make their way to the concourse areas on the half time whistle and this leaves a lot of room for social distancing to go for a toss. Indicative data from a sample of clubs suggests around 20 to 30 percent of fans leave their seats at half time. To build more toilets, increase the number of concessions or create more space on concourses is not a financially viable proposition or practical enough for venues. However, what can be influenced is time.

Questioned Foster, “What if everyone didn’t leave their seats on the half time whistle? This would reduce crowd density on concourses, shorten queues for toilets and concessions. To make this possible, thought should be given to extending the half time break by five minutes. It will have a two-pronged benefit – knowing there is additional time, some spectators will wait 5-10 minutes before leaving their seats, thus flattening the curve of people in the concourse spaces and will help in reducing queues. It will also help in reducing crowd density, and spectators will also get served quicker and spend less time in queues.” Extending the half time break means also lessening the health risks posed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Tech solutions

Technology can also play a role here with solutions like Meshh which helps understand crowd behavior in a physical environment. There is also WaitTime’s state-of-the-art, patented artificial intelligence which leverages both a guest platform and an operator’s platform to observe, measure, and maximize the impact of the WaitTime system using real-time data and historical analysis. There are also technological solutions like CrowdConnected’s indoor positioning solution which provides reliable accuracy with minimal set-up at an affordable price.

The above mentioned futuristic technological solutions are able to give real-time crowd density or queue length data at concessions and toilets to facilitate fans to head to quieter areas.

Foster’s point is that an additional five minutes of half time will allow queues to be more manageable and it is more likely that social distancing will be maintained. If stadiums are able to fill seating bowls to 50 percent, an additional five minutes may also prove to be critical to help support social distancing on concourses.

Innovative seating bowl solutions

OnePlan’s mapping platform allows stadiums and arenas to assess social distancing planning for every element of their operations. OnePlan’s social distancing calculators and tools work for any country and across all aspects of an event and venue operations including ingress, circulation, seating bowl and egress.

Foster concluded by stating, “OnePlan have developed the algorithms to calculate optimal venue capacity while adhering to local social distancing rules and guidance. This can be applied to any stadium or arena and is the only system in the world to have been peer reviewed by the National Center for Spectator Safety and Security (NCS4). The system is being used to demonstrate the viability of a safe return for spectators by Premier League, NBA and MLB teams including Arsenal F.C. (Premier League football club based in Islington, UK), Chelsea F.C. (Premier League football club based in Fulham, UK), Wolves F.C. (professional association football club based in West Midlands, UK) and the Belgium FA (Belgium national football team). It was also utilized in one of the UK Government trial venues with the England and Wales Cricket Board.

During these trying times of COVID-19, it is platforms like OnePlan which is bending over backwards to provide innovative seating bowl solutions and help venues to accommodate spectators at almost full capacity and, at the same time, maintain social distancing. OnePlan’s solutions can also help stadia to rake in the revenue at a time when coronavirus has left the sports venue sector bleeding financially.

OnePlan - Paul Foster editorialImage: OnePlan

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