Fieldhouse gets safety certification prior to upcoming reopening

Bankers Life Fieldhouse

Bankers Life Fieldhouse is adding new health and safety features as it prepares to reopen to the public later this month, including cashless payment systems and so-called “touchless” bathrooms, more rigid cleaning protocols and plexiglass separators at concession stands. 

The new measures are part of the venue’s effort to meet accreditation standards established by the International Well Building Institute at buildings across the country.

The fieldhouse received its certification this week along with the St. Vincent Center across Delaware Street after enrolling in the institute’s health and safety rating program in July. It is one of several NBA venues to earn the designation.

Mel Raines, executive vice president of corporate communications, community engagement, and facility operations for Pacers Sports & Entertainment, said most of the changes were already planned as part of the ongoing $360 million renovation now underway.

In addition to public-facing features, the Well certification also examines management policies, such as employee sick leave and other health care protocols.  The NBA earlier this year required all 29 of its venues to pursue either Well certification or accreditation from the Global Biorisk Advisory Council in light of the pandemic.

Pacers Sports & Entertainment, which operates the fieldhouse, declined to say how much was invested in the certification process—including the updates. According to the program’s website, Well certification includes an enrollment fee of $12,600 for most stadiums and multi-purpose event venues.

Among the biggest shifts for the venue that fans are likely to notice is a renewed emphasis on the venue’s “Clean Team” janitorial crew.

“We used to hide our cleaning staff in sort of dark-colored shirts, and they were not intended to be noticed,” Raines said. “I think [fans] will notice when they come back, we’ll have a brightly colored Clean Team that is continuously wiping high-touch surfaces and cleaning all around the building in a high-profile way.”

The venue also is implementing X-ray scanners for all bags rather than having security staff conduct bag checks. And fans will have tickets scanned at pedestals rather than by a staffer with a scan gun.

While the fieldhouse was not forced to change any vendors to adopt its new standards, Raines said many of its packages—such as with Ticketmaster—were upgraded to ensure the venue was capable of supporting complete digital ticket entry. Additional ticket-scanning equipment and improved point-of-sales systems were also purchased as part of the upgrades.

Most of the changes, Raines said, are likely to be around for decades, including the use of hospital-grade HVAC filters, digital tickets and the new cashless payment system. The fieldhouse has also installed about 300 hand-sanitizing stations that are intended to be permanent.

But others, like the plexiglass dividers, are likely to go by the wayside once the pandemic is over, she said.

The fieldhouse isn’t the only local venue making long-term health upgrades amid the pandemic.

Earlier this year the Capital Improvement Board, which operates the Indiana Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium invested $7 million to adopt “touchless” features at its facilities, such as cashless payment and digital ticketing systems. It also installed sanitizing stations and is now using hospital-grade HVAC filters.

“I think how we operate the building will certainly never be the same,” Raines said of the fieldhouse upgrades.

The first visitors to get an up-close look at these changes—and the upgrades to the fieldhouse—are expected be about 400 friends and family that attend the Crossroads Classic college basketball games on Dec. 19, featuring matchups of Butler and Indiana University, and Purdue and Notre Dame.

It’s also possible fans will be permitted at the Pacers’ regular season opener (yet to be announced). They won’t be allowed at the team’s sole preseason home game on Dec. 18.

Other public events on the calendar for the venue are Disney on Ice, scheduled for Jan. 13-18. The health department has not yet determined how many fans will be allowed for those events.

Some of the arena’s improvements, including a massive new center-hung scoreboard, have been showcased during early-season college basketball games like the Jimmy V Classic and the State Farm Champions Classic.

Raines said it’s likely renovations will continue uninterrupted over the next two years. The construction schedule no longer has to work around the NBA All-Star Game in Indianapolis, which was moved from 2021 to 2024.

The improvements made during the event calendar will be focused on small concourse areas and back-of-house areas rather than in the seating bowl areas. The venue plans to shut down completely during the summer months in 2021 and 2022 for major construction.

The Maryland Street parking garage is expected to be torn down next spring to make way for a new 1.5-acre plaza. Raines said construction on that component of the renovation will likely take place without any stoppage starting in the summer.

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