Virgin Money Unity Arena becomes UK's first socially distanced concert venue, to open this summer
Amid the ongoing cancelation and postponement of live music events such as summer music festivals and stadium tours due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there are some music venues that are using innovative ideas to get back in business. One UK racetrack, the Virgin Money Unity Arena in Newcastle, England, is getting converted into the first "dedicated socially distanced venue" and it will be ready for a summer opening.
Shows are scheduled to kick off in August and the venue will announce its initial line-up of artists, comedians and entertainers on Tuesday (July 7). The venue is being organized by promoter SSD Concerts and the team behind Newcastle festival, This Is Tomorrow. The city's racetrack is being modified to accommodate 500 viewing platforms with a maximum attendance of 2,500 people, according to Rolling Stone. Each viewing station, while positioned to face the stage, will be set approximately six feet apart. The venue promises to follow all social distancing mandates, from the parking lot to the bathrooms to the viewing area.
On Twitter, Virgin Money Unity Arena, wrote, "HOW IT WORKS: Safely park your car and join the socially distanced queuing system into the Arena. Follow directions to your personal viewing area. Have food and drink delivered to your area through the @VirginMoney Unity Arena app and enjoy the show!"
All staff will be trained about safety procedures, including hygiene maintenance such as hand washing, wearing gloves when serving and delivering food. "Staff and support stewards will be required to wear masks at all times,” the venue’s website states. Ged Bell of Newcastle city council told the Guardian that the plans for the venue are “a brilliant innovation where people will be able to enjoy top bands in a safe, responsible and socially distanced way".
Steve Davis, the managing director of SSD, said, "Since all of our scheduled concerts have been postponed to later in the year and all venues in the city closed, the staff at SSD had a willingness to continue. We can’t be without music during these times so our only thought has been how can we bring music back to the British public safely and responsibly." He continued, "We have been hosting loads of live sessions and DJ sets across our social media, supporting local artists and raising money for the NHS. Now, we’re taking it one step further as the UK slowly comes out of Lockdown.”
Davis added, “We think even in these hard times the people of the northeast will come out in their thousands to see the artists they love.”
The venue has also pledged to donate a limited number of free tickets to each show to National Health Service workers.