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At the Ocean Center, the show can go on

At the Ocean Center, the show can go on

2020 has been a year like no other. From work to school to happy hours, the world has gone virtual thanks to COVID-19. But while Zoom calls have proved an effective replacement for in-person interactions, there's one industry that's just not quite the same through a computer screen—live events. And that’s where the Ocean Center in Daytona Beach comes in to play.

"It should go without saying that our first priority is safety," said Ocean Center Director Tim Riddle. "But our team knew that with a little creative thinking, we could figure out a way to continue hosting events while also providing a safe environment for both competitors and spectators."

So how’d this team manage to pull off large-scale gatherings in the age of COVID-19? Look no further than The Bacon Beatdown, which took place in July, for a real-life example of just what it takes to host a safe and successful event.

“Running an event in 2020 is really hard. The Ocean Center went above and beyond to make it possible for The Bacon Beatdown to happen this year,” said event organizer Will Bald.Clearly defining and working together to create a set of COVID-19 safety protocols could have been a nightmare. Instead, it was a reasonable, straightforward process.”

Part of those protocols included increased physical distancing. While the Ocean Center’s exhibit hall offered ample room for the event in years past, the location just wouldn’t work for 2020. Luckily, the facility’s arena was available and, combined with the exhibit hall, would provide enough room to accommodate spacing requirements. And that’s why Riddle knew it made sense to offer the event both spaces, free of charge.

“When we sat down and looked at everything, we knew the promoter would need more space for the event this year, and that our arena would be the perfect spot,” said Riddle. “Normally, the upgrade in facility space comes with a fee. However, our goal is always to work with our clients to ensure a successful event, and in this case, that meant providing a more suitable location to accommodate the increased spacing needed due to COVID. Of course, giving free space allowed for greater attendance, which also boosted Ocean Center ancillary revenues such as parking and concessions, so it was a win-win for both parties.”

The Ocean Center team also put in to place additional safety measures, including hand sanitizer stations, distanced spectator seating, changes in foot traffic flow, the mandatory wearing of masks and creative use of existing space to meet the event needs.

“Setup was harder—the staff (especially event coordinators, operations, and security) were incredibly available and helped way beyond expectation. Every employee of the Ocean Center was clearly working to help our event be a success,” said Bald. “Without them going above and beyond, there is zero chance that our event would have been even close to as successful as it was. An event coordinator could not ask for a better experience and a more helpful team in such a difficult year to be running an event.”

Not only did the Bacon Beatdown go off without a hitch, but other events have taken notice. The facility recently hosted the 31st National Reptile Breeders Expo, which is the largest reptile meeting in the world. Upcoming events include several conferences, a dance competition, a boxing tournament and a basketball tournament.

“The pandemic has certainly created challenges for our profession,” said Riddle. “We’ve embraced that for the foreseeable future, events are going to look a little different. But, we see this as an opportunity to show why the Ocean Center is a premier venue. We’re ready to think outside the box and work with our clients to ensure success!”

To learn more about the Ocean Center in Daytona Beach, visit

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