Venues manage event changes, consider future improvements for public health

Local News

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – As the state’s Stay-at-Home order and country’s social distancing guidelines continued to be in place Wednesday, staff members of entertainment venues across the area continued to work on keeping up with changing calendars. They also updated WANE 15 on potential changes to their facilities in the months ahead.

“As you can imagine, there are lots of moving parts,” Sweetwater Vice President of Corporate Communications Heather Herron said. “We are simply trying to stay flexible and adhere to the recommendations. The safety of our customers and employees are the priority.”

On Tuesday, Sweetwater shared a schedule of upcoming concerts at the company’s Performance Pavilion, planned for the summer. The first show has been set for Tuesday, July 28.

It is still unknown what the spread of COVID-19 and social distancing guidelines could look like come summer, and if thousands of people would be allowed to congregate in one location. Organizers at several venues have been optimistic of the return of events in the months ahead, but have also been open to the idea of making adjustments on the road ahead.

“We have scheduled the shows for the Pavilion but will, of course, follow the recommendations/guidelines from the governor and medical experts,” Herron added. “If large crowds aren’t allowed, we would need to change our plans.”

The Sweetwater-powered Clyde Theatre also had a busy lineup of shows set through the spring and into the summer. Like other venues, it’s unknown when the first, post-pandemic show will happen and what changes would be needed to welcome the concert-goers back.

“We’re following the state’s guidelines and need to wait and see what happens moving forward,” Herron explained.

100 events affected at Memorial Coliseum

The staff of the area’s largest venue, the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, has been in a similar situation, working to reschedule events while anticipating when people will be allowed back in the building. So far about 100 events have been affected by the pandemic.

Coliseum General Manager Randy Brown told WANE 15 his staff has been hoping to get things back on track with commencement ceremonies in June, but understands changes may need to be made to make that happen, like spreading out seats. He called the plan ‘optimistic’ though, noting a chance that events that large may not yet be allowed to happen at that point.

The facility is facing a budget issue with the mass amount of cancellations and rescheduled events. It doesn’t qualify for assistance other businesses are able to get, because it is a government entity, operated by the county.

When events are able to be held again, several improvements will needed to be considered, according to Brown. Adjustments for public health may be discussed for ticket lines, merchandise tables, concession stands and restrooms.

Brown has been in touch with a group of leaders from other venues around town, including the Embassy Theatre.

Embassy staff working through rescheduling

Staff at the Embassy have been working full-time to reschedule events as well. It’s a difficult process finding dates later this year or even next year that work for the venue as well as the promoters or renters.

“There are a lot of moving parts, but the Embassy is navigating the waters well,” Chief Marketing Officer Carly Myers told WANE 15. “And, we have had very few events cancel at this time. This is not a time to be selfish. So, we are trying hard to understand and be compassionate with all involved. It can be stressful and upsetting to reschedule a wedding or to try and figure out how a concert or show with dozens of people involved can quickly reschedule their lives to be here again.”

The staff has been working to adjust to CDC requirements and other guidelines to keep the venue clean and for events ahead. While sanitizing is a priority, the staff has also been trying to figure out how to adjust to hosting events with smaller crowds instead of a sold out theater.

“Our facility is large and has many spaces to host and conduct business and events,” Meyers said. “So, we have some luxury to move things into other parts of the facility if need be or to spread out to protect the health and safety of everyone. If we need to cap attendance, we will. So, we are already working through plans of how the rest of 2020 might look as well as 2021. And, we are adjusting our expectations daily, as everyone is.”

The staff of the Embassy hopes to get the ball rolling again with their Summer Nights events in the ballroom and rooftop on Wednesday evenings. The program has been set to begin May 20.

The theater has also anticipated a loss in revenue due to the pandemic and has started a fundraising drive with a goal of raising $500,000. You can find more information on the Raise the Curtain campaign here: http://fwembassytheatre.org/raise-the-curtain-campaign/

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