By: Tanner Simkins @TannerSimkins
Yves it’s New York, and those who flock to Madison Square Garden or even Broadway may be a little more stir crazy or in need of a fix when the weather turns a bit chillier than today, but when will fans come back and dollars start flowing back to those who run the buildings?
Some reports have said a year or 18 months, but a survey out Thursday which speaks to a critical group…people who have recently purchased tickets, says that the return to indoor events is actually A LOT sooner than many would have anticipated, even in the Big Apple.
Riptide Partners unveiled their recent survey of actual New York area event attendees, which revealed a much faster return to event timeline for consumers than has been widely discussed. It is the first, and most comprehensive, study of actual event attendees in the New York area since the Pandemic shutdown began.
“There are literally hundreds of theaters, arenas and venues of all sizes that have been affected by the shutdown, and it was our desire to get a better handle on the thoughts of those venue patrons who had attended events prior to the shutdown. We think this survey tells a slightly different story than what was originally thought,” Rob Comstock, co-founder of New York based Riptide Partners, which works with venues on improving User Experience. “The variable of when people can return to venues in larger groups will be decided by health and government officials, but when that date is set, we believe that people will feel safer, and come back sooner, than anticipated based on the survey responses we have received.”
The survey includes over 4,000 completed surveys from consumers who regularly attended sporting and entertainment events in the New York tri-state area. Of those 4,000, an overwhelming 89% said they will return to events depending on the actions taken by venue operators to ensure safety; 75% most frequently attended concerts / live events and 25% most frequently attended sporting events.
Most interestingly, the average time to return across all levels of concern is 3.5 months, with extremely concerned respondents saying they will wait an average 5.2 months, while those who are not at all concerned will return immediately. That is a drastic reduction in time from what has been out there with surveys about the general public.
While no one can say for sure when that “go clock” starts, Comstock pointed out that the survey should buoy the hopes and business aspirations of venue owners, and that this model is replicable in other key cities as well.
“Sentiment will likely vary materially by market depending on infection rate, level of success in containing or reducing virus spread, and overall attitudes,” Comstock added. “We intend to use the same approach and metrics in other markets to understand those differences. For the output of the research to be helpful to the industry – venue operators, teams, etc. – in developing their operational playbook for reopening, they have to know the sentiment and preferred safety protocols of their local fanbase.”
What will it take, outside of a vaccine?
The two biggest factors the group were weighing were touch points of areas like seating and bathrooms, while most indicated the food and beverage safety would be handled at an acceptable level. Anxiety over being in a crowd is the most frequently cited concern at 44% of respondents. Screening attendees and thorough disinfection of venue were the two most common changes requested.
“Number one is sanitization of the venue, ideally using a set of recognized standards and independent certification of practices,” Comstock added. “The Miami Dolphins recently announced STAR certification by the Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC) for their sanitization practices at Hard Rock Stadium, which should give fans confidence in returning. Touchless options around the facility are another priority highlighted in our survey responses. Attendees cite restrooms, concessions and other activities typically requiring physical contact as areas of concern. Cleaning will address some of those concerns but contactless options for ticketing, security, food and beverage ordering and restrooms will certainly go a long way. Lastly, allowing for social distancing will be critical. The number one concern highlighted in our survey responses is “anxiety over being in a crowd”. So far, we’ve seen local governments limit attendance to 10 to 20% of capacity where they’ve allowed fans to return which has enabled better staging for security and ample space for social distancing while seated. NASCAR has successfully run several races with fans at reduced capacity, where permitted.”
So, we don’t know when we will be back in seats, and the bubbles have provided a bridge without fans for sports both indoor and outdoor. But what we do know, especially in a major market, is that the anticipation of return to butts in seats can now start to be see down the road, and that is good news for all in the business. Making that move smartly, will help to get the business we cover more in focus and back on track, and talking months, not years, is a welcome ray of sunshine on what has been a gloomy business environment.