Wells Fargo Center executives are calling it an important step toward welcoming Flyers and 76ers fans back to the arena later in their respective seasons this year.
The arena has been awarded the WELL health-safety rating for facility operations and management. It is a science-based, third-party-verified evaluation of the venue’s health and safety protocols.
The International WELL Building Institute awards the rating, which accesses new and existing buildings’ policies, protocols, and emergency plans to address pandemic challenges and broader health and safety issues in the future.
According to a Wells Fargo Center spokesperson, a WELL health-safety rating gives spectators confidence that a venue has implemented a comprehensive, best-in-class response plan to the coronavirus pandemic.
“The health and safety of our guests, employees, athletes, and entertainers is our top priority — that’s why we’ve been working around the clock to ensure Wells Fargo Center is ready to welcome fans back later this year,” said Valerie Camillo, president of business operations for the Flyers and the Wells Fargo Center.
Camillo said the decision on whether fans can attend is a “collaborative effort” between public health officials at the city and state level, team and league officials, and health and safety leaders at the Wells Fargo Center.
She said she would like to see the Wells Fargo Center get back to full capacity — around 20,000 — “as soon and as safely as we can. It would be great if we could do that for the playoffs this season.”
Camillo said that the plan was for a smaller amount of fans to initially be brought back when permitted, and that the number would hopefully increase down the road.
The arena, she added, will “continue to follow the guidance of public health officials at the city, state, and national levels so that we’re ready to welcome fans back.”
The rating follows health and safety advancements made to the Wells Fargo Center, including a recently completed, $11 million upgrade of its HVAC system with filtration that replaces all the air in the arena’s seating bowl every 30 minutes.
“That’s a very, very high [air] turnover after running it through the filters, and it sounds very promising,” said Charles Haas, department chairman of civil, architectural and environmental engineering at Drexel University.
Experts say that any filter with a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value of 13 is considered very good. The Wells Fargo’s MERV rating is between 13 and 14.
The arena has also instituted comprehensive sanitation protocols, including new systems to reduce contact points between staff and guests, new technology to support contactless ticket scanning and concession transactions, and new crowd management protocols.
Cleanliness is important, said Haas, but the air-filtration system is the biggest factor in evaluating the health risks for fans in a building.
“The key is the air,” he said. “The surface cleaning and plexiglass barriers are somewhat less important. It’s upping the ventilation that is one of the dominating factors in improving the quality.”
The Wells Fargo Center has had many Flyers and 76ers games without fans at the start of their respective seasons, though the Flyers have hosted an honored COVID-19 frontline worker and his/her family at each home game.
“For the Flyers, our fans are the heart and soul of the franchise,” Camillo said. “Every sports team says that, but in Philly, we know it means something real.”
The Flyers had the best home record (25-6-4) in the NHL last season. The Sixers were 31-4 at home last season.
“Our fans bring an intimidating passion and energy to each game,” Camillo said. “… For a lot of people, getting back to a Flyers game at the Wells Fargo Center with friends and loved ones is going to be an important part of healing and moving on from this pandemic, and we take that very seriously.”
Once fans are allowed back in the building, the Wells Fargo Center will have specific guidelines on masks, the amount of distance required between spectators, and other instructions.