When you’re planning an outdoor sports event, particularly a larger-scale one that’s outdoors, there are a lot of considerations.
Some of these considerations are always relevant. For example, you have to appropriately plan event security, which can be a little more challenging when the event is outdoors because you don’t have the already defined points of entry like you do for an indoor event.
Now, during the COVID era, there are even more significant challenges. You have to think about the health and safety of your athletes, coaches, vendors and all attendees.
In general, an outdoor event does tend to be safer in terms of reducing the risk of COVID spread, but it’s not a risk that’s entirely gone when you’re outside.
The following are some things to keep in mind to plan an outdoor sports event that’s safe and secure in the context we’re living in right now.
General Outdoor Event Planning Tips
The following are general tips regardless of your type of outdoor event or other situations you might be facing at this time.
- Choosing a venue: When you’re planning an outdoor sporting event or any event that’s going to be outdoors, it might not be a bad idea to have an attached indoor space as well. This can provide you with some help if the weather doesn’t cooperate. Yes, you may have to make some adjustments because of COVID-19, but it can be manageable if you think about it ahead of time. As you choose a venue, think about your athletes and your audience. You want everyone to feel comfortable in the space you choose.
- Permits: Depending on the size and type of event, as well as where it will be located, you may need a pretty wide variety of permits. Food permits are standard if you plan to sell or even give away or sample consumable items. If any food handling is going on, you may need sinks for hand-washing and other sanitation requirements may be in place. You might need an alcohol use permit or a letter of authorization to serve alcohol, as well as permits for your tents or canopy structure. Private property sometimes requires a temporary use permit, and you should check into an electrical license.
- Toilets: Will you need porta potties? If so, you need to have an estimate of how many attendees you’ll have to rent the right amount. Having long lines is never optimal.
- Volunteers: If volunteers are working the event, involve them in the planning as early as possible. If you can provide training sessions, that’s ideal, and you should print out all guidelines and instructions for them or send them to their phones. Assign roles and duties well in advance of the event so you’ll know ahead of time if you’re short-handed and you can fix it.
- Emergency kit: Any larger-scale event should have an onsite emergency kit, especially if athletic activities are involved. An emergency kit might include first aid supplies, and pain relievers, and you might also want to let emergency responders with valid ACLS certification know about your event. They’ll decide if they should perhaps have someone on hand.
- Weather: You can’t control the weather, but you can monitor it in advance of your outdoor event. You might be able to purchase weather insurance, depending on you’re the specifics of your event. For example, rain insurance policies can protect you from lost profits if the weather doesn’t cooperate.
- Comfort: While the outdoors isn’t always optimal in terms of comfort, try and plan ways to make athletes and attendees as comfortable as possible. For example, depending on the time of year, you might need an area with some fans or heaters.
- Ordinances: Are there any local ordinances you have to be aware of as you plan an outdoor event? For example what about fire codes or noise ordinances? If you aren’t sure, you can ask local authorities or your local fire or police department.
- Logistics: You should get photos of your venue and a sketch as well. This will help you as you’re planning logistics such as how the equipment will be brought in, as well as where your spectators and guests will come in at. You’ll also need to coordinate parking. Another logistical concern is how you’ll get power to the area.
Security For An Outdoor Event
When you’re planning any event, along with logistics, you have to think about security. In most cases, if your event is large, you should work with a security contractor. When you do, they’re going to know how to manage an outdoor setting, potentially without an initially defined perimeter.
Some of the things a security team will do before an event include:
- Pre-event planning: Security companies will usually start creating concrete plans weeks before an event. They’ll work with you as the organizer to ensure you have an agreed-upon plan to deal with everything necessary. Security contractors think about things you might not otherwise, like serious crimes, missing people, equipment failure and medical emergencies. When you work with professional contractors, they’re going to know how to proactively plan for those scenarios that might not have crossed your mind initially.
- Putting a team together: Your security contracting company can put a team together who will work on the day of the event. They will put in place licensed professionals when needed.
- Inspection and Audit: Contractors will go through your event location well in advance and they’ll begin to define the perimeter. The perimeter will include not just where the actual event is taking place but also surrounding areas like parking lots. They’ll create checkpoints to make sure no one goes where they shouldn’t.
- Access control: This is a component of event security where credentials and tickets are checked. The security team can inspect anything that shouldn’t be allowed on the premises, such as weapons or alcohol.
Security contractors will also figure out their specific strategies for crowd monitoring and control, as well as communications before and during the event.
If you’re having a sporting event in the near term, you still have to consider COVID guidelines, in addition to everything else including conventional safety and security.
Outdoor events tend to be viewed as facilitating less spread of the virus, but they’re not foolproof.
According to what we currently know, the COVID virus primarily spreads in places that aren’t well-ventilated. For your event, you might consider additional restrictions if you have any indoor or enclosed spaces that will be on the premises of your event.
- If you are going to require any type of COVID restrictions to be met, such as masks, vaccinations or a negative test, let your athletes and event attendees know well in advance what the policies will be. You don’t want to surprise anyone day of.
- If your event is entirely outside, the fresh air is constantly moving, which can help disperse droplets.
- Some recommendations indicate if you’re having an event in an area of high transmission with a lot of new COVID-19 cases in the past week, that participants wear masks not just indoors but also outdoors in crowded areas or when they’re in close contact with others.
- You might want to advise your attendees to make careful decisions about whether or not to attend events with a lot of other people, even if vaccinated. While initially, the guidance was that vaccinated groups didn’t necessarily need to follow restrictions in the spring that was no longer the case with the widespread prevalence of the Delta variant.
- You might want to send notice to anyone invited to attend the event that they should factor in their age, underlying medical conditions, and their family or friends who they might be around that have underlying health conditions.
Some doctors have expressed concern about very large sporting events, such as college sports events.
- Whatever guidance you put in place or requirements, you should not just let attendees know about ahead of time, but you should also clearly post on signage throughout the venue.
- Make things like masks and hand sanitizer widely available throughout where your event is being held.
- As you’re setting up, work to reduce high-touch surfaces. For example, be careful about where food or drink is being served if you’re offering them.
- Encourage everyone to distance themselves as much as they can socially.
Now is an interesting time to be planning any kind of sporting event with a large crowd. We’re at a time where there’s a lot of gray areas as far as COVID guidelines, and we’re figuring things out as we go.
If you do have an upcoming event you’re responsible for organizing, start planning well in advance so that you can begin to navigate potential obstacles and avoid them or at least have a plan for how you’ll deal with them effectively. It’s uncharted territory, and some scenarios are unavoidable, but with planning, at least you’ll have a better idea of what to expect overall at your event.