Q’s With Chase Center GM Kim Stone: ‘It’s Our Goal To Be The Safest Arena In The US’

Kim Stone
– Kim Stone
San Francisco’s nearly brand-new Chase Center arena has received the Global Biorisk Advisory Council’s STAR accreditation, considered the highest cleaning standard in the industry as the 18,000-seat venue prepares to reopen for NBA games and concerts whenever the time comes. Preparation means a new arena department focused on sanitation, contactless entry for touring crews and even tech to help keep the bathroom lines moving swiftly.

“Our goal coming out of this is to make sure that we are viewed as the safest arena in the U.S.,” says Chase Center general manager Kim Stone. “It’s who we are and in our DNA as the Golden State Warriors to perform at that level.”

To achieve GBAC STAR accreditation, which Stone calls the gold standard for the industry, the San Francisco arena demonstrated compliance with GBAC’s 20 core elements, ranging from standard operating procedures and risk assessment strategies to personal protective equipment and emergency preparedness and response measures.

The arena joins just Staples Center and Hard Rock Stadium as the third sports venue to receive the accreditation and adds to its recent LEED gold certification to boot. Its new facility health and hygiene group is headed by Jackie Ventura and focused on public health, environmental and disinfection issues. 

Pollstar: Being such a new facility, Chase Center was probably already ahead of the game on this one. 
We had the benefit of being the newest kid on the block, so to speak, as our building was built with the best, most efficient, highest rated instructure. We were fortunate because we had less than six months of use, and all of our policies and protocols were written to meet the stringent San Francisco health codes and building codes, so we started with a really solid foundation. 

What else has Chase Center done to prepare for reopening?
We’ve already done a few things. I’ve created a health and hygiene department that focuses specifically on public health, environmental and sanitizing and disinfecting issues. As a whole brand-new department we were able to pivot quickly, led by somebody who was in house already and who had worked for me for 18 years in Miami and helped guide American Airlines Arena through SARS and MERS and other issues.

We also created an internal task force of 60 people across the company and developed an almost 100-page “return to events” manual that talks about every single area and what we’re focused on. We aren’t releasing that because things just continue to change – what we know today might not be tomorrow. But it’s to make sure we’re prepared and then we’ll pivot and add or make adjustments based on what San Francisco’s Public Health Department tells us to do.  
The third thing is I participate on multiple industry-wide committees, just to brainstorm, sort of crowdsourcing what we need to do to get out of this. And we’ll continue to conduct our own surveys over the next several months so we can watch trends and really keep our finger on the pulse of what people are expecting. 

How about for artists and touring productions? What can they expect when things open back up?
That brings me to the fourth thing, which is feedback from promoters and agents and what they want. We view the back-of-house experience and artist experience as one of the most important things coming out of this. We’ve had some really great discussions with our great partners at Live Nation, and we are doing some remodeling of our back of house areas to make sure everything is touchless – from the faucets to towel dispensers – so they don’t have to touch doors; exploring ways to separate local crews from the national touring crews and the artists. PPE is going to be important; we are already looking for where we can put plexiglass barriers. Wait times for bathrooms, one of the things we’ve found when surveying our season ticket members, queue lines in this area, specifically in San Francisco, is one of their top concerns so we’re looking at technology systems within that. 

Six months ago, some of these logistical challenges seemed far-fetched or hopefully wouldn’t be needed, but so far we’ve had to be prepared for the worst-case scenarios.

Being the oldest person in the room is an asset these days (laughs). From pre-9/11 to post-9/11 and seeing how that terrible situation impacted the industry, and having gone through Zika in South Florida, MERS, some of the issues we had to be aware of and manage around, and then the hurricane in 2017 – Irma was a Category 5. From the pre-event to the storm event to the recovery was crisis management at its best. From all of those combined life experiences, there is some element of each that has come to bear and helped us now. I’m also fortunate to have a great team that understands you have to be flexible, agile and very patient right now.

Anything you can tell us about upcoming events at the arena?
It’s slow. There’s a few new conversations but the majority are about rescheduling. We’re watching to see how everything settles in terms of shows. In terms of the industry, what worries me is what the industry will look like coming out of this – seeing what happened at CAA, and now MSG today, that’s the hard part, the collateral damage being done. The one thing I do know is that we are social beings, so whenever we can gather again we will. I’m hopeful that in ‘22 we’ll be in a robust entertainment industry again. I think ‘21 will be about recovery and ‘22 will be back to 2018-2019 levels, but I’m an extreme optimist. When you need a positive spin, call me, I’m always glass full.