With Real Salt Lake and Major League Soccer on the cusp of resuming fan attended matches, many fans have mixed emotions about what that means and whether they can safely attend.
We don’t blame you.
So when Real Monarchs played a match that was open to the public on July 11, I knew I had to be there. I had to get a feel for what safety protocols were in place, and how strictly they were being enforced. Let’s break down what went well, and what kind of scared me.
Where they nailed it
I came to the stadium pretty skeptical, so my expectations were low. How could they enforce mask wearing all game long, and keep people distanced at a public sporting event? Honestly, the staff did really well in this department.
The number of fans was pretty low; I think many people shied away from the game for the same reason I was nervous. This actually helped keep fans easily 6 feet apart while watching the match. People sat every other row to ensure distance up and down, and there was usually anywhere from 5 to 10 seats between groups, if not more.
The other concern I had was whether people would abide by the rules in place to wear a mask through the entirety of the event, regardless of where you were. It didn’t matter if you were in your seats, at concessions or in the bathroom, everyone wore a mask everywhere they went. Sure, there were some people who took off their masks, but I was really impressed by the event staffs quick response to anyone not wearing one. I noticed on a couple of occasions people would remove their masks, and after about a minute an event staff member would come over and request they put their masks back on. The responsiveness and professionalism of the staff was great.
In terms of the amenities, there were multiple precautions taken. A couple of new additions to the stadium are stickers on the floors in the concessions lines and bathrooms that help keep waiting fans at a six-feet length from each other. Similarly, plastic paneling is up at the registers to ensure safety. In the men’s bathrooms, every other urinal was taped off so that you are never shoulder to shoulder while doing your business.
Another great callout is the number of hand sanitizer stations throughout the stadium. Every light post along the northern walkway had a hand sanitizer station attached to it. You can quickly find a place to sanitize your hands, no problem!
In terms of staffing, every concession and security member wore masks the entirety of the time. The line judges and center referee did not wear masks but the 4th official did. In terms of coaches, Jamison Olave wore his masks on the sidelines 90% of the time, Landon Donovan didn’t wear one at all.
Where they failed
I’m not out to sensationalize, or cause someone to lose their job, but there was a very big miss in their COVID protocol. I got my stadiums mixed up and drove to the ZBRA before realizing the game was at Rio Tinto. As a result it was about 10 minutes into the match when I pulled up to the security screening tent. There was no line, just me and 2 security workers. They had me walk through the metal detector per the usual and then on the other side had an infrared thermometer ready to check my temperature.
Due to the fact that the thermometer had been in the hot sun it kept producing an error each time they tried to check my temperature. They had what appeared to be a supervisor come over to help. He took me into the stadium to a shady spot and once again tried to read my temperature and again the gun wouldn’t work. He then looked at me and said it’s not a big deal and told me to go in. No attempt to get a second gun or send me to the next tent, which was only about 50 feet away. There wasn’t a queue of people he needed to get through either, just me.
It’s been weeks since that incident and I have not been sick, so he was right that everything was fine. But the staff took a risk in breaching protocol and allowing me to enter without ever securing my temperature. That is a big source of concern for me.
It was really encouraging to see everyone wear masks along with all of the other safety protocols that are in place. If Real Salt Lake can tighten down the process on the entry stations I’d feel pretty secure in attending future games. Otherwise, I’d think twice about attending again.