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Light at the End of the Tunnel? Not Yet

The first post-lockdown event at Orlando’s convention center was set for mid-June, but the organizers made a late decision to move to July.

On June 16, the AAU National Volleyball Championships were expected to be the first event to take place at the Orange County Convention Center after the cancellation or postponement of nearly 50 conventions, trade shows, and events there due to the coronavirus pandemic. Unfortunately, the rebirth of the in-person event industry at the second-largest meeting facility in America will have to wait a bit longer: On May 15, the AAU pushed back its event dates to July 14 to 26.

“Upon further conversation and taking into consideration the ongoing findings of the Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force, [we and the facility] have mutually postponed the 47th AAU Junior National Volleyball Championships,” said Roger Goudy, AAU president and CEO, in a May 15 statement. “Our goal has always been to host the AAU Junior National Volleyball Championships when, and where, it was deemed safe to do so and with all necessary containment and mitigation measures in place.” Another factor in the decision: More than half of the 2,800 teams that originally signed up for the tournament had backed out.

Even with the date change, the AAU tournament will be greatly scaled down from what it’s been in its previous years. Attendance will be about 30,000 compared to 100,000 in 2019, in large part because there will be no spectators allowed in the convention center. Further, OCCC has adopted safety measures related to cleaning and social distancing to protect players, coaches, medical trainers, event workers, and facility personnel. The AAU has partnered with Orlando Health’s Arnold Palmer Hospital “to come up with strategies for masking, hand-washing, and pre-screening prior to the event as well as social-distancing queues within the venue,” said Dr. Don Plumley, chief quality officer for the hospital.

The OCCC has published on its website an 11-page 
list of new protections for those who will host or attend any events there in the foreseeable future. It is also securing agreements with healthcare and hospital systems in the area for additional support for summer and fall events at the facility. Lastly, the center is seeking STAR accreditation from the Global Biorisk Advisory Council, a division of the International Sanitary Supply Association that recognizes facilities for meeting certain cleaning and disinfection standards. Chicago’s McCormick Place, the nation's largest meeting facility, has also signed on to earn that stamp of approval, along with The Las Vegas Convention Center.

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