It’s been a long road back for ALSD members. But the sports and entertainment business has emerged from the pandemic tunnel after COVID-19 changed nearly every aspect of our industry.
“It’s a shorter list to name the parts of our industry that haven’t changed,” says Phil Laws, General Manager at Wells Fargo Center.
Wells Fargo Center owner and operator Comcast Spectacor is back to business. The latest guidelines from state and local officials in Pennsylvania allow indoor venues to open at 20% capacity, permitting roughly 4,000 fans to enjoy Philadelphia Flyers and 76ers games live and in-person for each event. In addition to sports events, Wells Fargo Center is planning to host a full slate of concerts this fall and has historically been a stop for the biggest touring acts.
To assist in reopening safely and with ongoing operations, many sports venues are looking to evidence-based, third-party verified ratings, such as the WELL Health-Safety Rating from the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), to ensure safety standards and to drive fan confidence.
We recently sat down with Phil Laws to recap his organization’s top priorities of health, safety, and first-class experiences, uncover some of the wellness innovations implemented at Wells Fargo Center even before the pandemic, and explore the long-term commitments made to fans and employees. The following transcript has been slightly edited for clarity.
How does your organization prioritize health and wellness?
Placing a priority on employee health and wellness is a perfect fit for our organizational values. Several of them lean into themes including teamwork, selflessness, and commitment to being the best, all of which align with prioritizing the health and safety of our employees.
In addition, being part of the Comcast NBCUniversal family of companies allows our employees to enjoy a range of health and wellness benefits that are unmatched in the sports and entertainment industry. Although our plans are robust, our focus on employee health and safety goes far beyond benefits and includes health and wellness education and informational resources.
What were your objectives while pursuing the WELL Health-Safety Rating?
Comcast Spectacor has a responsibility to make sure the environment of Wells Fargo Center is as safe for our fans as it possibly can be. This is not just a pandemic initiative. This responsibility is a long-term pledge to our patrons. The objective of pursuing the WELL Health-Safety Rating is to make sure WFC is utilizing the best available criteria to create a safer arena and maintain that commitment in the future.
How do health and safety fit into the overall mission for your organization?
Comcast Spectator’s core mission is about bringing incredible live experiences to our guests. We welcome millions of patrons through the arena doors in a given year for sports, concerts, and family shows.
Safety has always been a top priority for us. The pandemic has made all of us reevaluate what this means. The WELL Health-Safety Rating is a reinforcement of these central values and of that core mission. It particularly plays into the “Committed to the Customer” and “Accountable and Knowledgeable” pillars of our core values.
Through this process, we’ve built a recommitment to providing not only a first-class experience for our guests, but one where they feel comfortable and safe. We’ve also gone through the process of educating our staff and operations team on the improvements we have invested in and how we can make sure our procedures and protocols are among the best in the industry.
How did your team approach the rating process and work together to achieve your goals?
The WELL Health-Safety Rating covers a variety of disciplines, including back-of-house facility skillsets, fan-facing event protocols, and human resources initiatives for our employees. Our approach was to bring a broad-based group of managers together under the direction of a project lead to organize the process.
Many hands make light work. Our approach was to make sure it was the right hands, too.
What are the most innovative or stand-out aspects of your WELL Health-Safety project?
Wells Fargo Center was awarded an innovation point for the upgrades we’ve made to our seating bowl HVAC system over the past few seasons. This project was massively successful pre-pandemic in helping the facility team maintain temperatures and humidity set points for the 76ers and the Flyers. The same system that allows us to keep players comfortable is also very capable in changing out the inside air with fresh air multiple times between events and eventually multiple times during events.
What positive impacts resulted from your project?
The most positive impact to date is how the WELL Health-Safety Rating process allowed our departments to evaluate their processes. It has made us rethink each procedure or policy or even steps within those protocols with an open mind for improvement.
How has the verification process improved your company culture?
The WELL Health-Safety Rating process itself has given our staff a great opportunity to give our operations a fresh look and to reset when it comes to implementing new practices. As a long-term effect, it makes doing the right thing by our fans and employees a sustainable effort over time.
Best practices locked in an employee’s head are vulnerable. Putting our practices to paper allows the next generation of arena staff to build upon the best practices of the past.
What is the long-term impact of the WELL Health-Safety Rating?
The WELL Health-Safety Rating isn’t about hanging up a certificate or putting a sticker on the door. This is a long-term commitment to make sure everyone entering our facility, whether patron or employee, can have faith that Comcast Spectacor is taking the steps needed to keep the arena as safe as possible.
Our initiative of being a leader in this space has led us to become the first arena in the state of Pennsylvania to receive the rating. In the long term, it is our hope that the reassurance of the WELL Health-Safety Rating allows our guests to focus on enjoying the game, concert, or event they're here to see.