Could we activate concert venues to help with the COVID-19 vaccination effort?

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Live entertainment organizations are signing on to open their venues across the country to help with COVID-19 vaccine rollout. // Image courtesy of NIVA

In the midst of the Biden administration’s goal of boosting vaccine supply and vaccinating 100 million Americans over the next 100 days, venues that have been empty since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic are offering to open their doors and help.

A number of live entertainment industry organizations including The National Independent Venue Association (NIVA), Anschutz Entertainment Group, and Live Nation Entertainment signed an open letter to President Joe Biden pleading their case to extend the help of their staff and venues as resources in vaccinating Americans.

The letter states that not only would these venues be an effective resource in spite of the pandemic; they would be an effective resource BECAUSE of the pandemic. In fact, some venues are already extending their help on state and local levels.

“While we have been effectively shuttered by the pandemic, we have vast resources that, if fully utilized, could provide invaluable mechanisms in our country’s vaccine distribution,” the letter reads. “In fact, because we are shuttered, we are able to offer the full weight of our industry to support vaccine distribution beginning immediately.”

In Kansas City, where the early stages of vaccine distribution are slowly but surely taking place, the assistance of venues like the Starlight Theatre or the Truman could certainly help to eliminate the challenges mass vaccination clinics are currently experiencing. At the very least, it could help do away with hour-long lines in cold temperatures.

“The Truman is definitely interested in using our venue for vaccine distribution,” says the Truman’s venue manager Casey Ianelli. “We want to be an asset to our community in any way we can and are actively pursuing ways that we can help out by transforming our space into a distribution site.”

Steve Tulipana, co-owner of Kansas City’s recordBar, agrees with the idea that many entertainment venues have the infrastructure to be helpful in vaccine distribution. While recordBar does not have the size factor of a larger theater or arena, Tulipana says the venues that do would be best suited for this job.

“Spaces of that size would also give the health care workers administering the vaccine room to work, be safe and store supplies,” Tulipana says. “That said, if there was a system that made sense for our venue to help, we are ready and willing.”

Rich Baker, Starlight Theatre’s president and CEO, said while the theatre would be potentially be on board for assisting in vaccination efforts, neighboring venues like Arrowhead Stadium or Royals Stadium may be better candidates in terms of parking and capacity.

“We’ve been able to utilize our Applause Club for a number of alternative uses recently, including blood drives in partnership with the Community Blood Center, but those are smaller scale events,” Baker says. “It would truly depend on the size and scope of a vaccination clinic for us to be able to determine if we can help, but we’re open to it.”

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