From Dodger Stadium To Charlotte Motor Speedway, Venues Line Up To Offer COVID-19 Shots

Speedway To Vaccination:
Kevin McCarthy
– Speedway To Vaccination:
A line forms around the racing oval at Charlotte Motor Speedway as people await the opportunity to receive COVID-19 vaccinations.
Venues across the nation, many of them limited in their ability to offer their usual sports and entertainment fare if not completely barred from doing so, are joining the effort to vaccinate millions of Americans amid the coronavirus pandemic.
It’s just the latest example of how public assembly facilities have responded to the global health and economic crisis. Since March, stadiums, arenas, convention centers and smaller venues have served as COVID-19 testing sites, food and personal protective equipment distribution hubs, test kit assembly lines, physically distanced voting and ballot processing centers. Many of the same attributes that made venues suitable for such uses apply in terms of vaccination sites.
On Tuesday, a coalition of live event industry leaders (including VenuesNow and Pollstar parent company Oak View Group) addressed a letter to President Joe Biden offering “the full support and resources of the live event industry” to help achieve the administration’s ambitious mass inoculation goals, “beginning immediately.”
“Our industry has thousands of venues throughout America that are under mandated closures and sitting empty,” the letter reads. “Event venues make ideal community vaccination sites: they are located in most urban, suburban and rural communities, often near transit lines and with easy access to parking.”
The letter goes on to say that facility staff are expert in dealing with managing crowds, noting, “Moving people in, out, and around a public gathering space swiftly and safely is the foundation of our industry.”
While vaccine supply issues have hampered some venue vaccination distribution plans — as in the case of New York’s Yankee Stadium and Citi Field (home of MLB’s Mets), other venues like Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena and Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina, are already up and running or have completed initial rounds of vaccinations.
At Charlotte Motor Speedway, where the venue has partnered with Atrium Health and Honeywell, nearly 16,000 were vaccinated over three days last weekend, according to General Manager Greg Walter.
The racetrack, which had already teamed with Atrium — the facility’s health services provider during major events — on administering COVID tests, became involved after Honeywell CEO Darius Adamczyk , Atrium CEO Eugene A. Woods and Carolina Panthers/Tepper Sports & Entertainment President Tom Glick, who all live in Charlotte, put their heads together about how they could have an impact on the vaccination rollout and reached out to the speedway.
The action in the Charlotte area now shifts to the Panther’s home field at Bank of America Stadium, which will conduct with Atrium and Honeywell both drive-through and walk-up vaccinations this coming weekend after a soft-opening earlier in the week.
More than a year before the pandemic struck, Charlotte Motor Speedway — which in a normal year hosts more than 100 promoted events as well as the Coca-Cola 600 in the NASCAR Cup Series — had worked with Cabarrus County health officials to model what a mass inoculation would look like, leading to a mock drill in January of 2020.
“We already had the blueprints, if you will, of what this would look like,” Walter said.
That turned out to be quite fortuitous, since racetrack staff had little more than week of lead time to put together its vaccination distribution plan.
Walter said that once the pandemic shut down events last March, he and the general managers of the other seven tracks across the country owned by parent company Speedway Motorsports had been challenged by President and CEO Marcus Smith to reach out and find ways to assist their various communities in coping with the crisis.
“Within two weeks we were doing mobile testing here at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Walter said.
The track hit its key performance indicators in terms of processes and numbers of people served, but one thing that impressed Walter was the emotion expressed by people who came to the track.
“People would drive out, you would see tears in their eyes. People were yelling, ‘God bless you. Thank you so much. I can hug my grandkids again,” he said. “It was a very emotional event over those three days that we did not anticipate. It was incredibly rewarding that you were making a difference in the lives of people in our community.”
Enthusiasm was evident. The first appoint on Friday was at 7:30 a.m. The first person arrived at 4:52 a.m.
The combination of Honeywell providing technology, Atrium handling the medical aspects and the speedway with its event expertise was a winning formula that Walter expects to be repeated at Bank of America Stadium.
Those coming to the facility got to drive right onto the track and eventually into the track’s NASCAR Cup garage to receive their shots. In total, it took about 45 minutes to go through the process, including an up to 30-minute post-shot observation period, Walter said.
One family whose car broke down at the track was even given a ride home, he said.
“Our company culture is to serve others,” Walter said. “When you put others ahead of yourself, your business plan will always be successful.”
The vaccination site at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena
Courtesy Spokane Public Facilities District
– The vaccination site at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena
hopes to be giving 5,000 shots a day by the end of February.
Across the country in eastern Washington, Spokane Arena opened in earnest as a testing site this week after a soft opening last Thursday, according to Matt Meyer, the director of entertainment at the arena and the First Interstate Center for the Arts.
Meyer said he had already been working with Community Health Center of Spokane on a plan to administer 80 shots of the Moderna vaccine a day when Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced that the arena would be a mass vaccination site.
The facility is positioned to administer 500 vaccinations per day, but the goal is to be able to handle 5,000 people a day by the end of February, with the process expected to last through May, Meyer said.
“For the most part, it’s going to be dependent on the allocations of the vaccine and how many we’re going to be getting on a weekly basis,” he said.
Along with CHAS, the arena has been doing drive-up testing since the beginning of December, Meyer said. People are being brought inside the arena for the inoculations, given weather considerations and the ability to handle more daily visits than would be possible on a drive-through basis.
Meyer said he has been on calls with colleagues, “hearing what other venues are doing, how it’s working.”
“I took a lot of that information, a lot of diagrams and put it front of everybody and we decided to pull it indoors,” he said.
After being open a few hours, 200 people had received shots on Wednesday, Meyer said.
So that no vaccine goes unused, the venue has initiated a standby list, he said.
“What’s been great about this whole process is you’ve got the Department of Health, you’ve got (the) Spokane Regional Health District, CHAS and then the arena, all these different staffs, we’re all working together in unison and then you throw in the National Guard as well,” Meyer said. “After multiple conversations and conversations I’ve had with venues throughout the nation, I’ve pretty much told (the arena’s partners), you’ve got to rely on us to handle the flow and the logistics of what’s going on, we need to relay on you guys to handle the medical aspect of it and getting the shots in arms and everything that’s associated with that, so what we’ve done on the venue side is we’ve taken all the printing, all the ancillary items that are popping up, we’ve been taking control of that and handling all the logistics for that.”
He said the vaccination package each person gets is as many as 10 pages long and there are also consent forms.
“I’ve got my event managers managing that, managing the standby list, the equipment list of items we’re pulling from the convention center and theater since we own and operate those and by doing that it’s opened things up where their focus is strictly on getting people through as quickly as possible and so far it’s working quite efficiently,” Meyer said.
The arena is receiving some compensation from the state, and the testing and vaccination efforts have allowed the arena to put some of its staff back to work, he said. The arena has also served as a smoke shelter when wildfires ravaged the Pacific Northwest late last summer and into fall, as a shelter for homeless individuals between May and August.
One of the largest venue vaccination sites is at Dodger Stadium, which has also served as a testing location and a polling place.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (center)
Courtesy Cal Expo
– California Gov. Gavin Newsom (center)
discusses Cal Expo’s drive-through vaccination program with other state officials.
“Adversity reveals who you are,” Dodgers President and CEO Stan Kasten said at a stadium news conference detailing the venue’s latest pivot. “None of us like adversity and needless to say, we have all lived through the worst year imaginable in terms of adversity, but on the field the Dodgers showed they could overcome that adversity (by winning the World Series) and similarly, off the field we are very proud that we’ve been able to show who we are through adversity, from becoming the world’s largest COVID testing center to becoming a very large and important polling place in November to the drive-through Christmas extravaganza that we had for our community and now, today, what is on its way to becoming the world’s largest vaccination center.”
He said the team was “pleased, proud, humbled and honored” to reciprocate the 60 years of support the Los Angeles community has shown the Dodgers.
“The Dodgers will always be here to lend a hand in any way that we can,” he said. “We are not near the end yet, but we are getting nearer and we’re getting there every day and very soon it will be time for us to be playing ball on these fields again with our stands full.”
The LA Forum, which also served as a voting site and COVID testing location, is also a vaccination site.

At Cal Expo, the California state fairgrounds in Sacramento, two vaccination efforts, one administered by Kaiser and the other by the county health department, are inoculating 700 people per day. The goal is for each to ramp up to about 2,500 jabs a day, depending on supply availability, according to Tom Martinez, chief deputy general manager of the California Exposition & State Fair.
Gov. Gavin Newsom has mandated that state-owned fairgrounds throughout California offer their facilities to local governments and agencies dealing with the pandemic at no cost, and the state has indicated it will cover the payroll of facility staff assisting in those efforts, Martinez said.
The county is administering the Moderna vaccine in the fairgrounds’ Pavilion, which houses animals during the annual fair run each summer, while Kaiser is administering the Pfizer vaccine, but is expecting shipments from Moderna as well, Martinez said. Kaiser is set up in the facility’s Expo Center building, where various arts and crafts exhibits and entertainment are offered during the fair, he said.
In addition, the 800-acre, mile-wide facility is housing homeless individuals who’ve tested positive and others considered susceptible in 63 FEMA-supplied trailers, while also continuing to administer COVID-19 tests. The trailers are spread out and those who’ve tested positive are isolated from others, Martinez said.
Kaiser is administering vaccines seven days a week, while the county is on hand on weekdays. The testing facility also runs Monday through Friday, but for 12 hours each day, Martinez said.
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