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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — When games begin again, sporting events probably won’t be filled to capacity with fans this year. But local designers are already planning ahead. 

“What we do know is eventually buildings have to open back up. Sports will eventually start again,” said Emily Louchart, a senior project interior designer with Missouri-based firm HOK. 

Louchart introduced a three-part phased approach to reopening stadiums and arenas. The plan begins with having live events and virtual fans, transitions to partial attendance and builds up to full attendance.

“It’s allowing teams to kind of test the waters of new protocols, some temporary, some potentially that could carry on post-pandemic life,” Louchart said.

Designers are looking at several seating strategies once people are allowed back at venues. They have numerous scenarios, ranging in attendance capacities. 

“But the reality is that you have to coordinate with the local regulatory agencies and health safety professionals to be able to maintain that social distancing and make sure that fans feel save in your venue,” HTNB sports group director Gerardo Prado said.

Engineers are also tackling potential social distancing issues on the concourse, in restrooms and at concessions stands.

They said the solution could be as simple as using your cell phone.

“Maybe if one restroom is blocked, you keep going around and your phone would tell you that,” said Kevin Lewis, venue practice director with Henderson Engineers. “In terms of food, using it for mobile pick-up makes a lot of sense.”

The fan experience will be different this year, but the experts are hopeful folks will be watching live events from the stands soon.