Changes coming to Tacoma Dome in ‘touchless’ COVID era

By Allison Needles

The News Tribune

Expect to have a more “touchless” experience the next time you visit the Tacoma Dome or the Greater Tacoma Convention Center.

The COVID-19 pandemic is leading to new upgrades at the venues, meant to “help keep guests, staff, crews and all involved healthy and safe,” Tammi Bryant, spokesperson for the City of Tacoma’s Venues and Events Department, said in email.

For one, when the Tacoma Dome reopens to the public, it will be 100 percent cashless to help reduce contact points and improve transaction processing time. That includes concessions and tour merchandise sales.

“For guests only carrying cash, there will be three cash-to-card kiosks (reverse ATM’s) where guests can exchange their cash for a debit card,” Bryant said. “Debit card balances remain usable anywhere after the event. Google Pay and Apple Pay are also available at all concession points of sale.”

The Dome will also be implementing a “clear bag only policy” to reduce touch points for security staff and guests. Other venues, including CenturyLink Field in Seattle, already have a clear bag policy.

“Small clutch bags will also be permitted, and we will be adding lockers outside the venue perimeter,” Bryant said.

For most events, guests at the Dome will hold up their electronic ticket on their phone. For consumer and trade shows, in which tickets are usually sold at the door, tickets will still be printed, but guests can hold those up to scanners, Bryant said.

At the Convention Center, water fountains will be replaced by single bottle fillers in public lobby areas and all restroom facility fixtures will be touchless. Traditional buffets will be eliminated, allowing for a more “grab and go” food and beverage service model and integration of touchless coffee and water service.

At both venues, hand sanitizer stations will be added and electrostatic sprayers will be used to disinfect the venues between events.

“Electrostatic cleaning is a means of spraying a fine mist of positively charged disinfectant particles that adhere to surfaces and objects,” Bryant said.

Bipolar ionization units, which reduce contaminated air particles to protect people from airborne bacteria and viruses, will be added to the ventilation systems to improve indoor air quality.

With the assistance of Pierce County funding, Tacoma Venue and Events Department, which includes the Tacoma Dome and Convention Center, plans to spend $2.3 million in 2020 on improvements and $210,000 in the next biennium on ongoing supplies and personal protective equipment, according to city staff.

The department has applied for Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC) Star Accreditation at both the Greater Tacoma Convention Center and the Tacoma Dome.

“GBAC Star Certification is the cleaning industry’s only outbreak prevention, response and recovery accreditation for facilities,” Bryant said.

Facilities with a certification have developed and maintained a disease-prevention program and have proper cleaning protocols, disinfection techniques and work practices in place to combat biohazards and infectious disease.

The venues are anticipated to reopen in March 2021, according to the city’s proposed 2021-22 budget.

Gov. Jay Inslee’s reopening guidance shows that concert venues can reopen in Phase 4. Large retail events are permitted in Phase 3 if they are outdoors only and up to 200 people. Pierce County is currently within Phase 2.