February 03, 2021
Last season, the Sixers were undoubtedly a better team when playing in front of their home fans. The same, albeit to a lesser extent, could be said about the Flyers.
So far this season, however, that hasn't been possible as COVID-19 precautions have prevented either team from welcoming their fans back to the Wells Fargo Center. And while neither team appears to be suffering all that much from the absence of a home crowd — both teams are currently in first place — there could be some good news on the horizon for fans and players alike.
The Farg — the Center, the WFC, whatever you want to call it — was recently awarded the WELL Health-Safety Rating for Facility Operations and Management, the first such venue in the state of Pennsylvania to earn this distinction. Here's more on what that rating means...
The International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) awards the WELL Health-Safety Rating, which is grounded in the WELL Building Standard (WELL) and which assesses new and existing buildings’ policies, protocols, and emergency plans to address pandemic challenges and broader health and safety issues in the future. Major buildings and venues around the world are enrolled in WELL programs, ranging from the Empire State Building and Taipei 101 Tower to Yankee Stadium and AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys. A WELL Health-Safety Rating gives guests confidence that a venue has implemented a comprehensive, best-in-class pandemic response plan.
Achieving the WELL rating doesn't mean that the arena can immediately begin welcoming fans into the building. There are still state and local requirements preventing mass indoor gatherings, and the respective governments would need to lift those before any fans would be permitted to return. The current regulations are as follows, per the Philadelphia Department of Health:
Outdoor events and gatherings may not exceed 10% of maximum occupancy and no more than 50 persons, even with masks and maintaining safe distancing. If maximum occupancy is unknown, no more than 10 persons per 1,000 square feet are permitted. Masks should be worn at all times, which means food and drink may not be served.
Indoor events and gatherings with people outside of your household are prohibited.
In other words, no fans. Not yet, at least. Still, this rating it is part of a longer process and an important step in guaranteeing the safety of fans whenever they are finally permitted to return.
“The health and safety of our guests, employees, athletes and entertainers is our top priority – that’s why we’ve been working around the clock to ensure Wells Fargo Center is ready to welcome fans back later this year,” said Valerie Camillo, President of Business Operations for the Philadelphia Flyers and Wells Fargo Center. “Receiving the WELL Health-Safety Rating is an incredible achievement that shows our fans that we’re committed to rigorous standards for health and safety.”
And it's not just important for the return of fans, but it's important to the players, coaches, media and countless others that currently work inside the arena.
"Wells Fargo Center received this science-based designation as a result of its significant efforts to ensure the health and safety of all who enter the building,” said Jessica Cooper, Chief Commercial Officer at IWBI. “Wells Fargo Center has taken significant steps, backed by scientific evidence, to help keep everyone safe when they visit the arena.”
Some of those significant steps include a recently-completed $11 million upgrade of the arena's HVAC system, adding a filtration system that completely replaces all the air in the seating bowl every 30 minutes. They've also "instituted comprehensive sanitization protocols, including new systems to reduce contact points between staff and guests, new technology to support contactless ticket scanning and concession transactions, and new crowd management protocols," according to a press release.
“The health and safety of our players, staff and fans is our number one priority and we're grateful to everyone who is working tirelessly to ensure the 76ers have a safe and successful season," said Sixers president Chris Heck. "The newly-implemented protocols and processes have been a great success and none of this would be possible without the diligent efforts from our partners at Comcast Spectacor. We look forward to having our fans back in The Center with us and we know the building will continue to ensure a safe experience for all.”
So far, the Sixers and Flyers have been doing just fine without fans in attendance, seeming to pick up right where they left off last season when there were still 20,000 screaming supporters.
That, however, doesn't mean the teams aren't anxious to get fans back inside the building on a regular basis.
“We know how much this building means to the entire city and the memories it creates for so many people, added Camillo. "On top of this rating, we’re going to continue to follow the guidance of public health officials at the city, state, and national levels so that we’re ready to welcome fans back to Wells Fargo Center for hockey, basketball, concerts and more later this year. The WELL Health-Safety Rating, along with our extensive health and safety efforts, puts us on the path to bringing our fans and part-time workers back as safely and as soon as possible.”
For many fans, "as soon as possible" can't come soon enough.
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