From The Center Of The COVID-19 Storm: Tacoma Dome’s Kim Bedier CFE

Kim Bedier
– Kim Bedier
Tacoma, Wash., is a suburb of Seattle and resides in Pierce County – one of the three counties ordered to shut down public events of more than 250 persons for two weeks by Gov. Jay Inslee thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Implementation of the governor’s order for Tacoma venues falls on Tacoma Venue & Events Director Kim Bedier, CFE. Tacoma Venue & Events manages the city-owned venues including the 21,500-capacity Tacoma Dome and convention center.

The order is painful – the arena has Blake Shelton on the books March 21. If the closures are extended, Billie Eilish and Celine Dion shows are in jeopardy the first half of April. Bedier also believes the closures are necessary. She spoke with Pollstar shortly after the governor’s press conference announcing the closures in Pierce, Snohomish and King counties, an area that saw the first COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S.

Pollstar: What’s the immediate effect of the shutdown on your venues?
Kim Bedier CFE: There’s a lot on the books through March, and we are working to reschedule them now. We’re working with all of our promoters to try to reschedule everything. We don’t want people to be disappointed but we do understand why this had to happen. There’s going to be no public assembly venue that is not going to be impacted in some way. We literally get an update from the county health department every day at 2 pm.
What’s the longer-term effect of an extended shutdown? Do you see it expanding?
We can’t think only about ourselves. We have to think about the greater population and that’s the messaging that came out from the governor. We’re trying to stop this thing in its tracks and you can talk social distancing all you want, but when you’ve got thousands of people in a venue, you don’t have space to do that. 
The governor said he was told the federal government may come out with some kind of mandate as well, but we don’t know that for a fact. It was something the governor said when somebody asked him about it at the press conference. It doesn’t help for isolated communities to be doing this. It has to be widespread for it to be able to stop this thing.

What happens to your venue staff during a shutdown?
My concern is for the part-time folks, because we aren’t going to have the event-related work for them in our venues, either the Tacoma Dome or the convention center, and a lot of them rely on that part-time work to live. The ushers, the security staff, and all of the people who work to service an event. They won’t be working for two weeks, at least. That’s challenging, I’m sure.  So that’s our greatest concern right now. Hopefully those people are going to be able to get back to work.
What changes are having to be made to the venues in the age of coronavirus?
Our venues all have, and did have before this, the hand sanitizer stations set up at various points in the venues. The restrooms had signs up with proper handwashing techniques. We’re doing super cleaning of the venues and stepped up the number of times custodians went through and cleaned bathroom surfaces and railings, all those high-touch surfaces. We’re going to continue doing that so we are prepared to open when we can do so. We’ll be ready and we’ll do a full spring clean and all those things you can never get to when you have a busy schedule. 
Did the governor give any indication he may extend the closures beyond two weeks?
The governor did give us a date of March 31, and then there’s be an assessment and a decision whether to extend it. What they told us is right now is it’s a very extreme rising curve of the number of impacted people and they need that curve to flatten out. That’s their goal. 
Was there communication with you by the state prior to the announcement?
I think they made some calls to the major sports teams, like the Sounders and Major League Baseball. They did contact our mayor so she was able to let us know what was coming down. I think she understands that its really important to us to have clear communication, as well as to our guests and our patrons. 
It’s like every day I wake up and put on the news, and yesterday’s bad news is quaint. 

It’s like a bad movie, right?