(Player) Safety First

Sports teams made numerous public changes during the pandemic to ensure fan health and wellness in stadia and arenas. But behind the scenes, teams also protect their products on the field, court, and ice, prioritizing player safety in training facilities.

During the pandemic and now into its downslope, sports teams have done everything possible to ensure fans coming into their venues feel safe and are safe. Fan confidence is crucial, as ticket sales remain the lifeblood of the industry.

To meet the critical needs of the moment, teams changed operational protocols, updated mechanical systems, and overcommunicated sanitization standards. Suddenly, housekeeping crews were hiding in plain sight as the curtain rose on a theater of clean.

And fans have responded across all geographies, regardless of pandemic point of view. The Texas Rangers hosted a sellout crowd of over 38,000 fans for Opening Day. In New York, the Yankees permitted entry to just over 10,000 fans, enabled by rigorous standards. More than 51,000 spectators descended on Churchill Downs for the 2021 Kentucky Derby. And now with updated CDC guidelines relaxing the need for fully vaccinated people to wear masks, the industry is coming back fast and furious, but the vital task of disinfection is here to stay.

The ALSD and others covering the business of sports have reported on these trends and done well to share the yeoman’s work accomplished in the venue marketplace to bring these buildings up to a new code. The safety messages to the fans have been clear and consistent. But there is another group of people walking through a different set of doors every day that hasn’t received as much attention above the fold – the players.

“We only go as far as those players on the court,” says David Painter, Director of Basketball Facilities for the Orlando Magic. “They are the number-one priority.”

For the players, their bubbles of health, wellness, and safety don’t begin in the arena. They begin in the training facility.

Hospital-Grade Disinfection

The Orlando Magic adopted scrupulous cleaning procedures even before COVID-19 and will continue those uncompromising practices after the coronavirus isn’t being transmitted at a pandemic rate. Proper protection requires a layered approach inclusive of manual wiping, electrostatic spraying, and UV-C light.

Electrostatic spraying is now a standard component of many disinfection protocols. The Magic utilize a third-party process to safely apply electrostatic spray in addition to the organization’s own housekeeping staff that is using quat 4 or quat 5 cleaning supplies.

“We’re coming back multiple times a week with an electrostatic spray overnight,” Painter says. “And our UV-C lighting happens every night. We’ve layered it and covered all aspects.”

The Orlando Magic were one of the first teams to integrate UV-C light. Unlike some teams who have adopted portable systems, the Magic have UV-C built in as light fixtures. Like hospital operating rooms, the Magic deploy UV-C to safeguard all locker rooms, training rooms, and equipment rooms.

In the team’s new training facility currently under construction, the Magic are integrating close to $400,000 of UV-C to ensure players are protected and layered sanitization approaches continue.

AdventHealth Training Center, the new training home for the Orlando Magic, will prioritize natural light and intentional layouts to promote mental and physical health and wellness.


Additional UV-C Case Study

As we learned in a recent ALSD Webinar, the Sacramento Kings are another NBA team leveraging UV-C to disinfect player environments in the team’s roughly 51,000-square-foot practice facility that is self-contained within Golden 1 Center. The Kings deploy a different tactic than the Magic. Instead of building UV-C as permanent light fixtures, the Kings have a portable program that can be applied to the entire building.

“The ability to utilize the units throughout the facility at our discretion regardless of time of day has really been one of the key features,” says Alex Rodrigo, SVP and General Manager for the Sacramento Kings and Golden 1 Center. “We can move our protocols and our processes specific to certain areas as needed when needed.”

“In terms of simplicity of cost effectiveness, reduced manpower, and safety, UV-C is a very effective way to go,” says Dr. Richard Wade, Chief Scientist at R-Zero, the biosafety company and manufacturer of the Arc units used by the Sacramento Kings.

Protection Beyond COVID-19

Indifferent of budget or approach (permanent or portable), UV-C is not a moment in time. Its benefits as a disinfectant have been documented since the late 19th century, and it’s been used in hospitals since the 1940s. It’s also more than a covid killer. UV-C destroys other bacteria and viruses from E. coli to staph to the seasonal flu.

“It’s important to understand UV-C is equally effective against influenza, rhinoviruses, MRSA, or any other pathogens that happen to be there in the future,” says Dr. Wade. “It is 99.99% effective at taking all those bacteria and viruses out of the air and off surfaces.”

“MRSA has ended player’s careers,” says Painter. “I fear that. So even before covid, we went hospital-grade with everything we were doing. I was deathly afraid of someone getting hurt, hopping on a table after another player, and having something unseen transfer.”

As CDC guidelines evolve and restrictions relax around COVID-19, sports teams will continue to prioritize both fan safety and the safety of the players those fans are coming to watch.

“The protocols we have in place are extensive,” Painter says. “Our main focus will continue to be getting folks back in this building and players back on the court.”

ALSD MEMBER HIGHLIGHT: Meet David Painter, Director of Basketball Facilities at the Orlando Magic