For the most part, general admission and rush seating ticketed concerts and festivals are not going to be a part of the entertainment landscape until optimistically well into 2021, when it is much safer to do so. Thinking outside the box or outside the "circle" is paramount as the entertainment industry finds a path forward in order to resume some form of normality in these times, but also carry some of that innovation into the future of live events.
Painting circles in a park was not our concept to begin with, but the team put our heads together to mold the idea into a functioning seating plan with physical distancing, crowd safety and attendee experience top-of-mind.
The general idea is simple...find a lucious green grassy park and paint 6' circles 6' apart. Sounds simple, right?
But how do you sell these? How many people is it good for? With extensive research (read: a tape measure and some masking tape) we wanted to ensure the experience for groups of ticket purchasers would be comfortable and safe, while of course maximizing the capacity of the space we have to use in the park. Seeing as there are mandates in many states & provinces at restaurants to be limited to groups of a maximum 6 people, we will use that guideline here as well. There would be 3 options to purchase tickets, similar to how you would go about purchasing a table at a Gala-style event. The largest circles are 10' in diameter (78.54 sqft) and are for up to 6 people; circles 8' in diameter (50.27 sqft) are for up to 4 people; and 6' circles (28.27 sqft) and are for 1 or 2 people. If a group of 3 people want to be in the largest Social CircleTM they may choose to do that, but would be purchasing all 6 spots/tickets for that circle. Same goes for solo ticket purchasers, they would have to purchase 2 tickets at minimum - or can purchase a 6 person circle and have loads of space to themselves of course!
Circles would only be sold to groups of attendees in the same cohort/family/clic/close contacts and would be on the social contract honour system to a certain degree. Attendees can be allowed to bring small folding lawn chairs, small umbrellas with no pointed tips, blankets, or small tarps (this would need to be heavily discussed with all stakeholders and security personnel and could depend on the type of crowd you are attracting with your entertainment, or your venue).
This all still may seem simple, but, there are many more layers to it to discuss.
As far as the overall site plan / seating chart goes, there are 2 options to set this up: stacked or staggered. By stacking the Social Circles™ the setup will be much safer for attendees with straight sight lines, and much easier for event staff (security, ushers and servers) to monitor and navigate. However, by staggering the circles you actually gain some space while still adhering to the 6' physical distancing measures (as per current regulations). In the example below of only 4 rows of 6' Social Circles™, you gain close to 5' of space!
If you have the space to spare, you will certainly reap the benefits and avoid confusion for all involved by going with the stacked version.
You next need to think about the best method of facilitating the marking and removing of the Social Circles™ on the grass. Certainly you should only use environmentally friendly paints first and foremost! But keep in mind all sorts of weather could happen between you marking it and your event. Backup plans or other ideas could include hoola-hoops, rope or hose (all which certainly have their downsides in time, money and safety aspects). There are programmable machines that could do this for you in some aspects, or if budgets are tight (read: budgets are always tight) then a good old fashioned 6/8/10' rope-on-a-string attached to a spray can and some sweat equity will do the trick as well once you've gridded out your site.
So how could this look? Below is an example, with an NFL football field as an example of scale. With a variety of seating available in groups of 2, 4 and 6 this is set up for 1964 total attendees as pictured below. The Social CircleTM layout would need to be altered and custom fit to the event space, park or field you have available to you (we'd love to help with that!):
Some other things to keep in mind when implementing this concept to your next outdoor event:
- Event ushers should be on hand to take people to their Social CircleTM when they arrive (at their designated timed-entry slot). This helps eliminate a lot of wandering and confusion, as they can also point out emergency exits, washroom facilities, first aid and other necessities as they walk them there.
- Service of food and drinks should only be available to people in their Social Circle™. This will eliminate lines at concenssions and bars completely (you'll just need to figure out how to manage this process efficiently!).
- Each cohort group could be given their own garbage & recycling bags, hand sanitizer, wipes, COVID-19 guidelines list, etc upon entry to eliminate touch points and gathering areas at waste disposal areas. Event staff could walk around and take any bags that are filling up and replace them with new ones.
- A social contract would need to be communicated to attendees about the expectations and responsibilities around their participatory behaviours and actions within their Social Circle™. Security would constantly be roaming the aisles to ensure people are sticking within their boundaries.
We've seen many concepts pop up with scaffolding/fencing set up in grids and while it creates a good experience in many aspects, it can create a nightmare in the event of an emergency and needing to quickly evacuate an event site...something to consider!
Of course all this said, you still need to make sure every aspect of your event adheres to physical distancing and cleaning procedures as per the latest COVID-19 guidelines in your jurisdiction - staggered entrances, ticketing, cashless payments, washroom facilities, smoking areas, hand washing stations, tempurature screening, PPE, etc. It would be smart to lean on the conservative side of everything as well, as the safety and comfort of attendees should always be kept in mind when planning and communicating. Read about more top tips to consider when events re-open amidst this pandemic on our previous blog post here!