Sports teams looking to resume games without spectators can now safely fill their empty seats and create some much-needed atmosphere. DS Smith, a provider of sustainable corrugated packaging, has readied production of recyclable cardboard replacement fans for use at arenas forced to limit attendance of the real thing.

DS Smith recently announced  the launch of its design and manufacturing plans, which includes an initial approach to the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer – offering quick and sustainable options for teams wanting to fill empty venues.

“We look to sports as a unifier, and that’s been missing. We want to help solve that,” said Barry Nelson, Managing Director of Sales, Marketing and Innovation for the North America Packaging and Paper Division of DS Smith. “By using a versatile material like cardboard, we can support teams across the country to design a unique atmosphere while fans stay home to maintain social distancing because of the coronavirus.” 

DS Smith is a veteran international player on the packaging scene, and recently expanded its North American box making and recycling operations. In the UK, it already is producing customized, branded “fans,” made of recycled, corrugated material. They easily slip over stadium seats, and soccer clubs in Europe are allowing the replica supporters to be displayed during matches. They’ll have arms raised, some in a V for victory, and with in-house pre-print capabilities, can be custom designed in a combination of tones, in solid or striped clothing to match team colors and even holding images of a foam finger or baseball bat.

Sporting events across the country are working on safe ways to move forward, some limiting the number of spectators and others prohibiting any onsite, the result of physical-distancing measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus. 

The NBA is among those close to resuming its abbreviated season, beginning next month at Walt Disney World in Florida. And MLB has issued a 60-game schedule to start in late July in empty ballparks.

The DS Smith plant in Lebanon, Indiana, for example, can produce more than 50,000 durable, corrugated fans in an eight-hour shift.

“There is a motivation that goes with playing. This simulates having real fans in the seats and gives a sense of perspective to the players that they’re not all alone,” Nelson said.

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