Stadia as ‘Humanitarian’ in COVID-19 crisis


Stadiums as hospitals part vii Image: Reading FC/Robin Schultz/Bluff Park Drone/

COVID-19 has made the whole world bizarre and unreal. It is simply not going away. Dealing with the unforeseen challenges put up by the coronavirus pandemic has taken a significant toll on people world over. The whole world is buzzing with the question – how long will the pandemic last? With fatalities crossing well past the 300,000 mark the world over and coronavirus cases standing globally at 5,701,462, the world is bruised and bleeding as well as taking a lot of strain.

Like other realms, the sports venue sector – the global value of which is estimated at US$756 billion annually – is also bearing the brunt of the pandemic and is suffering huge losses. To safeguard the health of athletes, most sporting events worldwide have either been canceled or postponed. Though, of late, few sports are resuming without spectators.

The world’s sports stadiums are also turning into hospitals and are moving to the frontline of the epidemic. Presenting Part VII of our series – ‘Stadiums as Hospitals’. Part I was carried out in the ‘Coliseum’ edition dated March 25, 2020, under the title – ‘Stadia turn into hospitals to handle COVID-19 outbreak’ and the Part II series was published on April 3, 2020, under the title – ‘Sports venues world over pitch in to combat coronavirus’. ‘Stadiums put best foot forward as COVID-19 body bags pile up’ was Part III of the series which got published in the April 10, 2020 edition of ‘Coliseum’, and Part IV was published in our April 20, 2020, edition under the headline – ‘Stadiums continue to play Good Samaritans’. Part V appeared in the ‘Coliseum’ edition dated April 28, 2020 under the headline – ‘Stadiums to the fore as COVID-19 storm on’. Part VI was published in the May 6, 2020, edition of ‘Coliseum’ with the title – ‘Stadia play role of Johnny-on-the-spot’.

While majority of sports facilities worldwide remain closed due to the pandemic, few SFM Network venues have opened their campuses for purposes to support the global pandemic situation.


United States (US)

The United States is continuing its bitter battle against coronavirus with casualties crossing the 1 lakh mark.


Panama City Beach Sports Complex

The Panama City Beach Sports Complex in US is being used for COVID-19 testing purposes. Recently, the venue opened their parking lots to become the first free COVID-19 mobile testing site in Bay County, Florida, in US. No appointments or pre-registration was necessary.

The Panama City Beach Sports Complex represents a premier sports tourism and community recreation venue. The state-of-the-art sports complex is located in Panama City Beach, Florida in US, surrounded by the beautiful white sand beaches and turquoise waters.

The Florida Department of Health established a goal to test two percent of the population.

“We are excited to lift testing criteria restrictions and bring testing to Panama City Beach to achieve the goal of reaching two percent of the population”, said Sandon S Speedling, MHS, CPM, CPH, Administrator and Health Officer, DOH-Bay.

The nasal swab-testing as part of the free drive through was open for everyone above the age of 18. Passengers remained inside their vehicles from arrival to departure, and were asked to limit the number of people in the vehicle to a maximum of five.

“Visit Panama City Beach and the Panama City Beach Sports Complex are committed to work with public health and safety officials anytime we face significant challenges, whether a storm event or a pandemic,” said Dan Rowe, President & CEO of the Panama City Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“The second phase of development at the Sports Complex includes an indoor event center to help serve our community’s emergency response needs,” Rowe added.

More than 309 tests have been done till date and results were given to residents within five business days.

“When we first learned of the opportunity to become one of several free COVID testing sites in Bay County, we were grateful,” stated Jamie Cox, General Manager of the Panama City Beach Sports Complex. “It’s always been a priority of ours to serve our community in every way possible. We were incredibly impressed by the tremendous hard work and dedication from the entire team with the Florida Department of Health in Bay County. It was rewarding to have been a small part of the effort, and we look forward to more opportunities to serve our community in the future.”

The Panama City Beach Sports Complex is getting ready to welcome visitors back into its fold after being closed for two months.


Cedar Point Sports Center

The Cedar Point Sports Center in Ohio, US, hosted blood drive to aid in coronavirus efforts.

The blood drive was held in collaboration with the Firelands Regional Health System and the American Red Cross to assist in the relief and recovery for those affected by the fatal respiratory disease.

A lot of people took part in the blood drive. There were originally 101 time slots available which were filled in less than an hour. Due to the huge response, Firelands then added additional slots which then were filled within 36 hours of the original posting of the event.

“It was such a joy to see Firelands Regional Health System working together with the American Red Cross and Cedar Point Sports Center to host a blood drive in support of those in need. I heard one of our team members say ‘it takes a village.’ It’s good to know that even though there’s a crisis going on in the world, people are still willing to help their neighbor,” remarked Jordan Sternberg, Marketing Manager of Firelands Regional Medical Center.

Of the 100 donors, 11 of them are Power Red donations. As per the American Red Cross website, a Power Red donation is “similar to a whole blood donation, except a special machine is used to allow you to safely donate two units of red blood cells during one donation while returning your plasma and platelets to you.”

A lot of initiatives were adopted to make certain that the facility was sterile and measured up to the social distancing guidelines:

  • Temperature of staff and donors was checked to ensure they were not running a fever;
  • Hand sanitizers was provided to the staff and donors before they were allowed to come in for the blood drive;
  • Beds were placed at considerable distance from each other for the blood donors;
  • Rapid Pass was encouraged so that the waiting time came down; and
  • All tables, chairs, counter tops, flat surfaces, door knobs, etc., were wiped with professional-grade sanitizing wipes.

Mary Ann Betton, Account Manager of American Red Cross Blood Services, added, “We are so appreciative that we were able to have the blood drive at Cedar Point Sports Center. It was great to see Cedar Point Sports Center and Firelands Regional Health System promote this so well, and it is so amazing for the community. The facility is a great space because it allows us to have a blood drive and still maintain social distancing.”

The Cedar Point Sports Center team was overjoyed over the response from donors and locals.

“It was great to see two community partners come together and work with the American Red Cross to make this blood drive happen. We are grateful to be able to use our facility and resources to benefit our community during this time of need,” noted Wes Hall, General Manager of the Cedar Point Sports Center.


Hoover Metropolitan Complex

Hoover Metropolitan Complex in Hoover, Alabama in US, has been a tremendous aid to their local community by providing necessary food services to those who are in dire need due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Hoover Metropolitan Stadium is a former Minor League Baseball (MLB) park located in Alabama, US. The stadium also serves as the home for the SEC Baseball Tournament, as well as the primary home for Hoover High School football.

In the first several weeks of the pandemic when closures were happening all over the city, including the Hoover Met Complex, the SFM operations staff in partnership with the City of Hoover, was able to organize quickly to turn extra food – that would otherwise go to waste – into boxed lunches. The perishable foods in their pantries and refrigerators were donated to 911 dispatchers, medical professionals, and custodial workers who are cleaning and disinfecting public spaces and keeping them spick and span.

Hoover Met Complex was also called upon to act as a retrieval location for school meals for local students who rely on their school lunch program for food every school day. It was but apparent that the operations team needed to team up with their Food and Beverage Manager, Jonathan (J.D.) Danforah, to employ Hoover Met Complex as a valuable resource in assisting the city’s efforts to keep the community fed.

Danforah has done for the City what others can’t; making calls to food distributors for coordinated food drops and making connections to ensure Hoover is able to provide food to the hungry mouths including the local Meals on Wheels Program, who is currently serving 125 meals per day.

As Danforah continues to make food for the Hoover and neighboring communities a priority, he says he is happy he can do his part to help his city of Hoover and hopes this pandemic disappears to bring normalcy back to the nation, City, and the complex.

He is playing a pivotal part in providing meals for the City’s hungry, the county has also reached out for help with their emergency management team in a similar effort based on his knowledge and connections to food distributors. In alliance with his local town and county, Danforah is doing his part to assist the tremendous efforts of Hoover and Jefferson County through this difficult time.




Aviva Stadium

Aviva Stadium is presently running as a COVID-19 testing center. Media reports stated that while it is unlikely fans will be allowed to attend events this year, plans are in place to stage closed doors events.

The Irish Defence Forces are running the test center in conjunction with the Aviva Stadium, on behalf of the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) and the Football Association of Ireland (FAI), having offered its facilities to the Government.

Aviva Stadium is a sports stadium located in Dublin, Ireland, and can hold 51,700 spectators. It is built on the site of the former Lansdowne Road Stadium, which was torn down in 2007, and replacing it as home to its chief tenants: The Irish rugby union team and the Republic of Ireland football team.

Aviva Stadium celebrated its 10th anniversary recently with the Dublin venue stating it would be ready to adapt to become a socially distant site for sports events, once public health guidelines allow.

The Aviva Stadium opened in May 2010 replacing Lansdowne Road, then the world’s oldest operating international stadium. The redevelopment project was a joint venture of the FAI and IRFU, funded partly by the Government.

Now the home of Irish rugby and football, 7.2 million fans have attended games and concerts at Aviva Stadium across 192 events since July 2010.
Aviva Stadium has hosted 88 rugby matches, 90 football matches and 14 concerts in that time.

Martin Murphy, Stadium Director, said in a statement, “It may not be the 10-year anniversary we had anticipated at the start of the year. We are however very conscious of the stadium’s heritage. Aviva Stadium is built on greatness and the redevelopment into the world class venue we are today would not have been possible without the support of the Irish people through Government investment. We are pleased to be able to support the country’s efforts during these unprecedented times.”

“We have hosted some classic sporting moments at Aviva Stadium, and we look forward to many more. To that end we are working very closely with our stakeholders at the FAI and the IRFU and with leading sports venues around the world to ensure that Aviva Stadium is ready and able to host games in whatever format just as soon as public health guidelines allow,” Murphy added.

He further remarked, “We will be following the lead from other sports. Ultimately, we want to see the stadium full again, but it will be some time before that can happen. We envisage games behind closed doors, then partial numbers and then something approximating full numbers depending on social distancing and measures in place.”

Murphy felt Aviva Stadium could be modified into a socially distant venue with less than a weeks’ notice. He added, “We would create a cocoon, a sterile and safe cocoon for the teams and match officials with no interaction other than that cocoon. We have detailed plans. We have done our research, what others are doing, what Germany is doing and a lot of that is still evolving. We have detailed plans drawn up with the FAI and IRFU behind closed doors.”


United Kingdom


Stamford Bridge

English Premier League football club Chelsea has extended its scheme providing meals to the National Health Service (NHS) and charities that support elderly and vulnerable groups.

Stamford Bridge is a football stadium in Fulham, adjacent to the borough of Chelsea in South West London, commonly referred to as The Bridge. It is the home of Chelsea Football Club, which competes in the Premier League, the highest division of English football.

Recently, Chelsea began providing 78,000 meals for an initial six-week period. The club said it will be extending this period for a further fortnight, bringing the number of distributed meals to a total of 115,520.

The meals, which are free of charge, are being prepared by Chelsea’s catering partner Levy and distributed daily, with over 14,000 meals per week provided.

The meals are being provided to Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust across their five local hospitals in London, including St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, Charing Cross Hospital in Fulham and Hammersmith Hospital.

Apart from its commitment to the NHS, Chelsea is working alongside charity partners to support the elderly, those in sheltered accommodation and vulnerable groups. These include Age UK, The Smile Brigade, Unity Works, and other housing units in London.


Madejski Stadium

A mobile testing facility for COVID-19 was hosted by Championship football club Reading at Madejski Stadium recently.

The Madejski is a football stadium located in Reading, Berkshire, England. The stadium went on stream in August 1998 and replaced Elm Park as Reading’s home ground. The Reading Football Club is a professional association football club based in Reading, Berkshire, England. The team play in the Championship, the second tier of English football.

Organized by the Department of Health and Social Care, working with the armed forces and the club, tests took place for four days.

The unit at Madejski Stadium is part of the Government’s attempts to increase access to tests via travelling units, operated by specially trained armed forces personnel who collect swabs on site and then send them to laboratories for processing.

Nigel Howe, Reading Chief Executive, said, “These units assist the Government’s national effort, support our NHS and provide for our key workers as well as those most vulnerable in the battle against COVID-19. So we are delighted to work closely with the local health authorities and the armed forces and help to serve our community at this difficult time.”




Wankhede Stadium

The iconic Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai is being used as a quarantine center. The Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) had directed the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) to hand over Wankhede Stadium – which hosted the 2011 World Cup final – into a quarantine facility during the pandemic.

The Wankhede premises are being used for high-risk contacts as Mumbai witnesses the highest spike in coronavirus cases in India.

Of late, India has seen a huge rise in COVID-19 cases with the same crossing the 1 lakh mark and deaths mounting to more than 4,000.

The Wankhede Stadium thus joins an array of gymkhanas on the Marine Drive that have been acquired by the MCGM in anticipation of further spike in positive coronavirus cases in the coming weeks. The Municipal Corporation has already converted the National Sports Club of India in Worli and the Mahalaxmi Race Course into temporary healthcare facilities.


Humanitarian role

The sports venue sector is playing its humanitarian role to the hilt during these times of coronavirus curse which has left the whole world choked.

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