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How Venues are Adapting Seating Charts with Pod Seating

By Anne Chapman

February 5, 2021

Pod seating 1

As we've come to understand more about the coronavirus, we've learned the importance of maintaining adequate space around us to prevent transmission. At the same time, we're all hungry for live events. Many event venues have adapted to the necessary precautions by changing the way they sell tickets and seat guests. Pod seating, or selling tickets in small groups seated together, allows households and social bubbles to attend events together while leaving safe distances between groups.

What Is Pod Seating?

Pod seating arrangements allow guests to buy tickets in a group, usually between two and six seats. Each pod is spaced apart from other pods in the venue to accomplish social distance between groups.

Pods can be set up to allow adequate space between guests while also respecting the current local guidelines for venue capacity. For instance, a 1,000 seat venue in an area allowing 25% capacity at indoor events can sell pods that total up to 250 seats between them.

In some cases, pods are simply spaced out to keep people properly socially distanced. In others, physical barriers are used between pods in order to cut the risk of transmission between groups of attendees. Pods are also offered in drive-in venues where groups arrive by car and only interact with other guests in their vehicles. Tickets can be sold individually or by the carload.

What Kinds Of Events Use Pod Seating?

Pod seating is used at a range of indoor and outdoor events. Concerts, comedy shows, sporting events such as football, basketball, and NASCAR events, and more have used this arrangement to host guests safely.

Pods are used both indoors and outdoors. The Grand Rapids Civic Theatre in West Michigan, for instance, hosted an outdoor event at the Fifth Third Ballpark featuring contemporary and classic Broadway music. At this event, guests could reserve 12-foot by 12-foot plots that seated up to six guests.

NFL teams throughout the country have worked with local authorities to get live fans into the stands while keeping attendees safely distanced from one another. Arrowhead Stadium, home of the Kansas City Chiefs, significantly reduced their capacity to work with pod seating. Instead of the usual 76,000 attendees, their kick off game was seen by 16,700 live fans. All guests were restricted to their pod during the game and at tailgating events before or after.

Movie theater operators are also using pod set ups as movie-hungry guests return to the cinema. Seats are available in pods that range from two to six, depending on the theater capacity. Pods are paired with other adaptations like limited concessions and staggered show times to allow guests to enjoy a theater experience without additional risk.

How Pod Seating Tickets Are Sold

Venues should clearly indicate in their messaging that pods should only be purchased by people in the same household or social bubble.

To sell tickets in pods, venues use seat maps that show the groups of tickets that are available. Guests use filters to select the number of tickets they wish to buy, and the seating map will show where there are groups of that size available. In many cases, the seating chart can also be viewed by zooming in or out to let guests select their pod. Once guests have found a suitable pod for their group, they can go through the purchase process.

Additional Measures to Keep Audiences Safe

Pod seating is one measure that can reduce the spread of viruses at live events. When paired with other safety measures, it can cut the risks significantly.

Research is showing the value of enhanced air circulation in indoor locations. Whenever possible, cycle air in from outdoors to reduce the potential viral load in the air. When outdoor air circulation is not possible, indoor air cleaners and HVAC systems can help.

Many venues are also altering how concessions are handled in order to reduce risk. Cashless concessions reduce contact between staff and guests, both in the form of card payments and mobile order-ahead features. In other locations, staff visit pods to take orders to allow guests to stay in their seats. Other venues, especially outdoor venues offering drive-in pod seating, are temporarily suspending rules against outside food and beverages.

Mask policies also reduce the risk of transmission. Let guests know to always wear a mask when moving through common areas. In most venues, masks are required any time guests are out of their seats. Masks may be temporarily removed while eating or drinking, but replaced afterward.

Frequent handwashing can also reduce transmission. Make handwashing stations or hand sanitizer available to guests. Use CDC signage giving instructions for effective handwashing.

Each safety measure that venues take to help cut risks can keep venues open and the public safe. By using pods with other common sense precautions, you can bring your audiences the live events they've been craving.