Mohegan develops large gatherings playbook

Led by its own health department, and millions of dollars invested in new safety measures, Mohegan has been able to recently hold a few large gatherings in its 275,000-square-foot indoor event space because the casino and entertainment complex sits on tribal land — which means it’s free to welcome crowds beyond the state’s 25-person capacity limit.

Mohegan Sun is not waiting for a COVID-19 vaccine before welcoming guests to its $80-million Earth Expo & Convention Center that counted more than 500,000 visitors last year.

Led by its own health department, and millions of dollars invested in new safety measures, Mohegan has been able to recently hold a few large gatherings in its 275,000-square-foot indoor event space because the casino and entertainment complex sits on tribal land — which means it’s free to welcome crowds beyond the state’s 25-person capacity limit.

In recent weeks, Mohegan hosted an orientation for the 2021 Miss America Pageant with about 200 participants and held a U.S. Census training event, among other small corporate gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic.

Rumors are also swirling that Mohegan Sun could host a college basketball tournament in a bubble-like format this winter, according to a report by CBS Sports. Depending on how many teams are invited to play at Mohegan Sun Arena, the prospective tournament would likely create a need for catering and hospitality services and meeting spaces on-site.

Meanwhile, the ongoing health crisis has largely stifled Connecticut’s multibillion-dollar meetings, events and convention industry.

“We are able to accomplish events in an uncanny amount of space, and are able to flex up because we have such large meeting rooms,” said John Washko, Mohegan’s vice president of exhibitions and convention sales. “There are ways that you can create a safe overall environment.”

Mohegan’s events are being guided by what Washko calls the industry’s “most robust” health and safety guidelines.

Under its new playbook, Mohegan Sun, which requires face masks on its entire property, has implemented thermal temperature scans at all entrances for guests and employees; those with temperatures of 99.8 degrees or lower are able to enter the premises.

The casino has also adjusted its air handlers to draw from fresh air as opposed to a mixture of recycled and fresh air; added ultraviolet lighting to most of its air handlers; implemented a contact tracing program for workers; and removed furniture to provide at least 6 feet for social distancing, among many other protocols.

Thousands of staff members have also completed an extensive retraining program focused on mandatory mask wearing, social distancing, hand washing, cleaning and disinfecting initiatives.

“We’ve created a resource center for the industry,” he said. “It’s helpful for us in our sales process as we help planners imagine what a socially distanced event would look like.”

Still, the overwhelming majority of Mohegan events this year were either canceled or rescheduled, Washko said.

Notably, the Connecticut International Auto Show scheduled this fall has been nixed, but the four-day Hartford Boat Show is still planned for mid-January.

Washko is hoping that the mass distribution of a potential coronavirus vaccine next year will increase its slate of large-scale events in April and May. Mohegan will also need airline carriers to expand the number of flights they’re providing at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks to score a larger number of regional travelers.

“Coming out of the gates it’s still going to be heavily skewing toward the drive market,” he said.

Precautions for group gatherings at Mohegan Sun

  • Purell hand sanitation stations throughout property including convention center.
  • Disinfecting of conference rooms overnight before events, and during group breaks as time allows with disinfecting spray and/or foggers.
  • Frequent common space sanitation of high contact surfaces including but not limited to restrooms, door handles, escalator hand rails, elevator buttons, sitting areas (chairs and tables).
  • Conference center restroom staffing for disinfecting during conference events.
  • Banquet team members have PPE and sanitize during set up, refreshes and all catered events.
  • Sanitation of shared AV equipment between speakers.
  • Pre-function space with one way entry and exit lanes.
  • Multiple registration areas with staggered attendee arrival times.
  • Source: Mohegan Sun

https://www.hartfordbusiness.com/article/mohegan-develops-large-gatherings-playbook