November 30, 2022

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

Galaxy soccer team turns parking lots into COVID vaccine site

It will be at least five weeks before the Galaxy welcome people back inside Dignity Health Sports Park. But the area outside the soccer stadium was packed Tuesday as a long line of cars snaked through the parking lots on the second day of a five-day drive-through COVID-19 vaccination event.

More than 20,000 people, mostly front-line workers and members of underserved and at-risk communities are expected to get their second doses of the Moderna vaccine this week. First doses were given at the Carson stadium in mid-February.

“It was one of the coolest events that I’ve taken part of,” said Galaxy President Chris Klein, who wore a blue team jacket, face mask and yellow vest and spent part of Tuesday directing drivers through the maze of vaccination stations.

“The biggest reaction we get is the big smile on people’s faces. The son bringing his mom. It’s just seeing all these people that are thankful for the opportunity to get the vaccine.”

The idea to use the massive parking lots for appointment-only vaccinations came from Dignity Health, the healthcare provider that owns the stadium’s naming rights.

“Looking back, it was, how could we not think of this?” Klein said. “But doing it and putting it on, it’s a tall task. It has gone amazingly well.”

Other Southern California sports venues, including Dodger Stadium, SoFi Stadium and San Diego’s Petco Park, have also been turned into vaccination sites, their large parking lots and freeway access making them ideal locations to handle thousands of visitors in a matter of hours.

At the Galaxy’s home, Dignity Health provided the vaccines and the medical professionals to administer them while the soccer team and its parent company, AEG, the sports and entertainment conglomerate, provided the small army of volunteers needed to keep the traffic moving. More than 4,000 cars made their way through the parking lots Tuesday.

Galaxy general manager Dennis te Kloese, who ran the national teams program for Mexico’s soccer federation, said that many of people who came through Tuesday were Latino and that some appeared to do a double take when they saw he and his wife waving cars through with a red flag.

“The guy who used to be running the national team is now running traffic,” he joked.

“It’s good to help out occasionally. It was great to see people so relieved.”

The most recognized volunteer was Cosmo, the Galaxy’s bug-eyed alien mascot, who was also the only one not wearing a mask.

“He has one on inside the costume,” said Vicky Mercado, the team’s senior communications manager.

Among those who worked multiple volunteer shifts in the parking lot beside Cosmo was Galaxy coach Greg Vanney, who got his second vaccine dose Monday.

“For me to give a bit of my time, I’m honored,” he said. “We’re just trying to make sure that nobody bumps into each other; that everybody’s just safe because there’s a lot of people and a lot of volunteers and people walking around.”

Vanney said the fact thousands were lining up for vaccines just days after outdoor sports venues such as Dignity Health Sports Park were cleared to reopen for the first time in more than a year was no accident.

“If really feels like we can see some light at the end of the tunnel, and hopefully not too far down the road we’ll start to feel something that resembles normalcy,” he said. “I don’t know if it will ever be exactly normal. But, man, something that resembles that would be great.”