Next up in reopenings: How to handle larger indoor crowds amid coronavirus

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

EnterTRAINment Junction reopens after being closed nearly 3 months during coronavirus pandemic

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Venues that need to deal with large crowds are working to employ methods to accommodate them during the coronavirus pandemic

EnterTRAINment Junction spokesman Bill Mefford said the big thing the West Chester Twp. business has working in its favor is its size.

“It takes a whole bunch of people to make it close quarters at 80,000 square feet,” he said. “The only time it really crowds up is Christmas time.”

Laura Shiffman, from Kansas City, takes a photo of her sons, Noah, 4, and Aiden, 7, in the tilted room inside the A-Maze-N Funhouse at EnterTRAINment Junction Thursday, June 11, 2020 in West Chester Township. EnterTRAINment Junction has reopened after being closed for 85 days due to the coronavirus pandemic. The facility features the world’s largest indoor train display with nearly two miles of track, the A-Maze-N Funhouse, a children’s play area and more. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

The attraction, which touts itself as offering “the world’s largest indoor model train display,” was among numerous businesses that were permitted to reopen Wednesday, including entertainment venues such as aquariums and zoos, skating rinks, indoor movie theaters and other indoor entertainment centers.

While there’s pent-up demand from guests looking to get out of the house, Mefford said he is seeing it tempered by guests’ newfound cautious nature.

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The popular attraction’s reopening day Wednesday was about half of what a typical weekday was before coronavirus.

“We don’t foresee a huge influx overnight,” he said. “I think it will be a gradual build as people feel more comfortable going out.”

EnterTRAINment Junction’s associates are adhering to all the state guidelines including wearing masks, use of hand sanitizing stations and maintaining safe social distancing as much as possible, according to General Manager Bill Balfour. Guests are asked to do the same.

The business will continue to maintain cleaning procedures, while adding new CDC safety protocols specific to COVID-19, Balfour said. That includes extended overnight cleaning and re-cleaning high-touch surfaces multiple times per day. Restrooms may also be shut down briefly throughout the day to allow more-frequent cleaning, he said.

Mica Glaser-Jones, co-owner of The Windamere event venue in Middletown, said keeping the crowd size under control won’t be much of a challenge.

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“Our table placement was already at five feet beforehand so extending it to six feet wasn’t that big a deal,” Glaser-Jones said. “Normally, our (maximum capacity) can be 200, but with adding an additional foot between all the tables it bumps three tables up to the front balcony” and knocks capacity down to 175.

An event venue’s planning for a wedding is far more time consuming than “just flipping the switch” and having bars and restaurants be able to do business the next day, she said.

“It could take a while for the events business to be able to spin back up to where we need to be again,” Glaser-Jones said. “We had quite a few that were May-June-July (weddings) reschedule all the way for next year, which means they’re taking dates away from 2021 brides. Next year is going to be kind of slim pickings for couples to find dates because there’s going to be a lot of competition for those dates.”

Preventing overcrowding at The Web Extreme Entertainment in Liberty Twp. means reducing laser tag participation from 40 to about 20, cutting the amount of bowling lanes from six to three and temporarily eliminating the augmented climbing wall, according to Sean Korsnak, director of sales and marketing.

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Because of state regulations, the business only can hold 50 percent capacity in the building, meaning 300 instead of 600 people.

“Day one we saw … nowhere near the amount of customers that would put us over that capacity limit,” Korsnak said.

But the biggest challenge moving forward is “being able to have people come in the door and feel safe,” he said.

“A lot of people are still scared, a lot of people are still not comfortable with going out,” Korsnak said. “I think just getting back to the norm is going to be very difficult.”

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