The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on entertainment venues over the past year.
The live entertainment industry was the first to shut down, said Mountain Health Arena director Cindy Collins. And it will be the last to fully reopen. Being a multi-billion dollar company, it has been hit very hard. But Collins said the industry immediately started making the necessary changes and adaptations, using the forced downtime to plan when and how to reopen. Collins said the plans were made from a global perspective, with information gathered from several countries.
Mountain Health Arena is owned by ASM Global, a management company that spans five continents and 14 countries with more than 300 locations around the world. It is now open and is the site of live shows again.
They (ASM) are the world’s largest entertainment management company, Collins said. So when the pandemic hit, they immediately started working with global health experts on all five continents to work out the protocols we needed to try and restart live events.
One of the main results of all the information gathering was the creation of Venue Shield, Collins said.
Venue Shield is a program used by ASM in all of its buildings, Collins said. It coincides with what the CDC, local health departments, and governments say we should be doing.
Part of the changes needed, Collins said, was that all employees entering the building have their temperatures checked and must wear headgear and follow other health safety protocols. In addition, company training was also provided on personal hygiene related to the pandemic, such as the recommended handwashing procedure and social distancing. And of course, disinfection and cleaning has also become a No.1 priority.
Beyond personal safety measures and frequent cleanings, other aspects of the place have also undergone necessary changes, Collins said.
Personal security shields have been installed in all concession areas and personal distancing options such as self-sliding customer credit cards also help reduce personal exposure. The goal, Collins said, was to reduce the number of times it takes to physically touch different things.
And the ticketing has evolved into the same kind of model, Collins said. Ticketmaster, for example, has worked very hard to deliver truly innovative mobile ticketing to help reduce touchpoints. I think everyone in our industry, even though they were the first to break down, worked very hard to make sure it could reopen safely.
The reopening of entertainment venues such as the Mountain Health Arena in Huntington is an important part of the economic recovery and is providing the various types of entertainment customers that have been turned away during the pandemic. Many of these types of venues can be seen as a cornerstone of local economies, attracting tourist dollars in the form of hotel stays, local restaurants, and side purchases generated by event patrons shopping in. other local stores before and after the events.
The arena has an impact of around $ 20 million for the region, as people shop, eat, stay in local hotels and pay taxes, Collins said. So we also look at the importance of this, and not just the music industry, for example.
Collins said the past year has been extremely difficult for everyone, both personally and professionally, but added that there is always an opportunity to learn from adversity and improve the future.
I try to look on the positive side of things, she says. And a good thing that I think we can take away from that is the benefits of technology. Relying on technology has been the biggest learning curve in business over the past year. As a result, we have all acquired a better knowledge of technological resources and developed better skills.
We had to learn how to use Zoom for virtual meetings, and many employees had to work from home while still being productive. So we had to use sharing apps like Teams for documents, and all of that was invaluable to a lot of people. We have come to appreciate this technology, Collins said. And we’ve learned not to take things for granted. Sometimes we tend to forget our daily blessings and not appreciate them until they are gone.
Collins said another important lesson the pandemic had taught was an appreciation for the community as a whole.
History has taught us that human beings can be bold, resourceful and resilient, Collins said. But my personal revelation through this is that teamwork is not necessarily something that is taught. When colleagues, friends and community members are called upon, they come together instinctively. And this spirit of collaboration despite disagreements is something rewarding to see.
The challenges, hard work and patience finally brought Collins and his team to Mountain Health Arena to the point where they had been working since the start of the pandemic.
We are now open for business and can have live shows again, Collins said with appreciation. They’re going to be left behind until Governor (Jim) Justice lifts more restrictions, but he’s moving pretty quickly. And many states, like Texas, are currently at 100% capacity. But even if we still distance ourselves, we can still have shows for a lot of people, and also fill some hotels and restaurants.
Collins said she has seen a lot of interest from promoters like Live Nation over the past three weeks.
Many of the biggest developers are reaching out and showing interest in the region, she said. So, it’s encouraging and exciting. I can’t predict the future, Collins said. But I believe that at this time next year, we will have some semblance of normalcy.
Information on upcoming events, including ticket sales, is available at mountainhealtharena.com and on their social media pages.