When we think of things to do during a global pandemic, attending a sporting event is very far down on the list. At one point, even watching a sporting event from home on TV was far-fetched.
In the recent months, sports have started to come back to life here in the United States. First it was NASCAR in May, then the MLS, NHL, MLB and NBA all resumed, or start, their seasons.
But as events returned, there was still one thing missing.
The fans in the stands!
Most sports kept their gates closed to spectators, but one sport has welcomed back fans at a limited capacity.
It started with the NASCAR race at Homestead-Miami Speedway in June. They allowed about 1,000 fans into the stands, mainly allowing military members and their families. Multiple other tracks followed as long as their state governments approved guidelines.
A couple weeks prior to the Foxwoods Resort Casino 30 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu announced that race fans would be allowed to attend. Only 18,000 fans were permitted, which is about 25% capacity.
The grandstands at NHMS can hold up to 76,000 people.
My family and girlfriend decided to attend the race, and we were excited! Finally, a sense of normalcy during these uncertain times.
As we arrived at the track, it was immediately different.
Areas that usually had camping or interactive displays were parking lots now. Parking was very loosey goosey. It wasn’t park as close as you can, it was park wherever, allowing for “social distance parking”.
Once out of the car and on the way to the track’s entry gates, we were required to wear a mask. They encouraged social distancing between parties while in line to walk into the track.
As we arrived at the gate, a medical team member checked our temperature, and then a security guard checked our clear bags. All bags had to be clear for a contactless safety search.
After those two steps, we waited in line for a volunteer to scan our digital ticket and allow us into the track.
So far, all of this has been contactless and fast. We must have waited like 5-10 minutes, which isn’t bad at all.
Once inside, I had to use the restroom. This is an area we all fear when it comes to germs. Thankfully, a couple ServiceMaster Clear attendants were cleaning as people came in and out. They were also directing traffic by only allowing a certain amount of people in at a time to make sure social distancing was possible.
When we got to our seats, social distancing was well established. The closest person to you in your row was almost 10 feet away, and the people in front of you were around 6 feet away. It was perfect.
Furthermore, at our seats we were allowed to take our masks off and enjoy the race. The track had only sold about 12,000 tickets, so there was plenty of room to relax.
Social distancing was achieved throughout the whole event. When my girlfriend and I went to look at merchandise, people were very aware of the protocol.
There was one non-contactless area. When I bought something, the guy took my credit card, paid with it, and then returned the card back to me.
Although small, I felt like that could have been a flaw in the contactless protocol.
Overall it was a great experience, everything went smoothly. Parking, entering the grandstands, buying merchandise and leaving the track were all safely executed.
I think that other sports can certainly learn from NASCAR and how they have brought fans back safely to enjoy sports again.