Safe Reopen Survey Data Brief

As the country pivots toward reopening, Irwin Seating asked its customers how they planned to approach the return to business.  Topics ranged from high-level hopes and concerns about their business to specific questions about cleaning and disinfecting and ensuring patron safety.

The survey was fielded during the month of May, in the early phases of reopening.  As of May 28, 2020, 87 professionals engaged in the design, build, renovation and management of stadiums/arenas, cinemas/movie theaters, educational facilities, performing arts centers and other public venues participated.  They represented a mix of organizational roles, almost all located in the US. 

We are sharing these results with you so you can see how your colleagues are navigating the reopening process. If you would like to add your voice to the discussion, please click on this link to participate in the survey. 


Partial reopening will happen quickly; full capacity will be a lengthier process.  

By the end of the summer, ¾ of venues expect to be open at some level of capacity.  Full capacity can take up to a year or more and is dependent on local conditions and guidances as well as underlying concerns about consumer willingness to return to large venues.

  • About half (48%) plan to reopen by
  • Majority (54%) plan to reopen at 1/4 capacity with another 36% opening at 1/2 capacity.
  • Majority (58%) plan to operate at full capacity by Spring 2021 while the remaining 42% are uncertain or believe it will be later (Summer or Fall of 2021); however, over 1/4 are not sure.
    Reopen MonthReopen FullCapacity

Current “essential businesses” are setting the example for what customers will expect.

Similar to supermarkets, pharmacies and similar businesses, reopening venues plan to increase disinfecting procedures (93%) and regulate crowd co-mingling in common areas (76%), mark floors to indicate directional flow (74%) and reduce lines (72%).

  • Many venues also expect to perform customer health screenings (44%), use more antimicrobial materials (42%) and create separate exits and entrances (36%).
  • Guests can count on finding hand sanitizer provided by the venue (97%).
  • Many guests will also find disinfecting wipes (41%), facemasks (31%) or tissues (29%).

Procedures to Protect

Disinfecting procedures will take time, with many venues expecting to see schedules disrupted. 


Depending on the seating and surfaces involved, venues will turn to a variety of cleaning agents multiple times per day.

  • The most common time to disinfect seats is after (42%) or prior to (30%) each event or show.
  • Managers will use a variety of disinfectants on their seats including disinfecting wipes (39%) and diluted bleach (27%).
  • A large majority (70%) are planning to use spray bottles to apply disinfectant to their seats.
  • Many plan to wipe off any disinfectant residue after each application (54%)
  • As a result, 34% expect to see schedules impacted very significantly; nearly half (46%) expect somewhat significant disruptions.

Frequency of Seat CleaningDisinfectants to UseWipe off Frequency

Ensuring customer safety is the top concern, but it is closely linked with a return to profitability. 


These additional safety measures will cost money; revenue will be depressed by limited capacity and schedule changes.  It is critical to get as many customers back in the seats quickly to survive as a business.  Major concerns include:

  • Making guests feel comfortable and confident returning when they are allowed to return is a major concern.
  • Creating a desirable experience despite operating at partial capacity and with all the safety measures in place (and doing it for a lengthy period).
  • Opening too soon and being required to shut down again, or worse, being the source of an outbreak .

Venues are optimistic that people want to get back to some version of normal, connect with others, and be entertained.   


“Normal” will not really be “normal”, however, and several mentioned that they expect their guests to be understanding, adaptable, patient and work together to keep venues safely operating.

  • Some also welcomed the fresh start, mentioning the ability to try new things, rethink the experience, the mission, new platforms.
  • Some also mentioned they have observed how to operate more efficiently during the pandemic and will apply these learnings.
  • Not everyone, however, is optimistic. Several mentioned that they were nothing gave them reason for optimism; one expressed concern that guests would hold off returning until a vaccine was available.

 To see more results from the survey, click the link and use the password SafeReopen.

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