LEBANON, Ind. (WISH) — As major professional sports leagues get underway, in most cases, the athletes will be playing without fans. But it doesn’t mean the seats will be empty.
The stands can be filled with cardboard cutouts of cheering fans, made in central Indiana by a company called DS Smith.
Mindy Myrick, head of corporate affairs for the packaging company, said it’s the first and only company in the United States which has announced they’re ready for orders.
They could fill every chair at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in less than three hours, thanks to a highly automized 550,000 square-foot facility.
“It gives a sense of perspective that the players are not alone,” Myrick said. “This is our way of helping the leagues as they get back up and running and keeping fans and players safe.”
DS Smith is a packaging, recycling and paper manufacturer with operations all over the world. The company’s Lebanon, Ind., plant opened earlier this year.
“Our flagship site here in North America,” she said.
The company has already approached the NBA, MLB and MLS. DS Smith has already made cutouts in Europe for soccer leagues there.
“We do expect to get interest and once we do and we move that forward, we’ll be well-positioned to produce as many as are needed,” Myrick said.
The design is customizable with team colors, men and women, diverse skin tones, even a foam finger is possible to be included.
The Lebanon plant can produce 50,000 cutouts in an 8-hour shift. There’s one design for indoors and a water-resistant option for outdoors. Myrick said both are 100% recyclable.
“This is another way that we can support our communities and the larger professional sports leagues as we try to navigate the new normal.”
A new normal which for now means games played before silent stadiums, not necessarily empty ones.
“While our fans won’t be cheering per se, they certainly stimulate the environment of having people in the seat and a full stadium to cheer on our sports teams,” Myrick said.
As for the cost, Myrick declined to estimate, saying that is still being worked out. But when orders come in, they will all be fulfilled by either the Lebanon plant or a smaller one in South Carolina.
With 50,000 cutouts possible in a single shift, every one of the seats at Victory Field could be done in under two hours. The 67,000 seats at Lucas Oil could be done in almost 11 hours.