When Golden State Warriors execs cut the ribbon on their new Chase Center in San Francisco last September, they felt like they’d just introduced a new arena that was ready for anything.

And then came COVID.

“Our original definition of flexible and malleable really centered on the ability to go from basketball to concert to corporate event, and then back to basketball,” Mike Kitts, the Warriors’ Senior Vice President of Partnerships told me. “And now, our definitions of flexible and malleable have completely changed.”

Indeed. Flexibility, Kitts said, now means crafting an experience for the upcoming NBA season that is destined to be as novel as the coronavirus itself. The team is examining how best to minimize lines, ensure adequate spacing, limit contact and provide sufficient opportunities to sanitize – for a number of fans the NBA has yet to decide.

Mar 7, 2020; San Francisco, California, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard Shake Milton (18) drives to the basket against the Golden State Warriors in the second quarter at the Chase Center. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

That likely will translate into new capabilities for the team’s smartphone app, along with more displays to help fans find their way around. The team is also exploring pandemic-era innovations like smart kiosks to check temperatures and connected hand sanitizers that help staff maintain them.

Of course, the flexibility dilemma isn’t unique to the Warriors, or even to basketball. Owners and executives of myriad brick-and-mortar businesses, from grocery chains and hardware stores to hotels and restaurants, are coming around to the same idea that they need to rearchitect the flow of the in-person experience to meet regulations and protect their workers and customers.