The coronavirus outbreak continues to force difficult decisions for sports-event organizers. Here is the latest information on how the outbreak has affected the sports-event industry.
Construction Continues at SoFi and Allegiant Stadiums; Islanders Construction Halted
Construction on SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California, is continuing with directives in place after a worker on Sunday tested positive for the coronavirus, construction company Turner AECOM Hunt confirmed in a press release.
The release said the worker is “doing well, receiving care, and is recovering” and before the diagnosis “was assigned to an isolated, material pre-assembly area outside the building” and “had not at any time entered the building or used any of its common areas.”
Construction at the future home of the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers is ongoing amid the statewide “Safe at Home” orders in California, which did allow for the continuation of commercial construction. The stadium is scheduled to open with a Taylor Swift concert on July 25; construction has continued through the coronavirus pandemic and also a period of heavy rain in February reminiscent of early 2017, which was so rainy that the stadium’s opening was delayed a year.
SoFi Stadium sent a release on Friday that said: “These are unprecedented times and the health and safety of our workers and their families is of the utmost important to us. In accordance with the recently released directives by the State of California, the County of Los Angeles and the City of Inglewood, as outlined in the attached materials, the construction at Hollywood Park continues moving forward with an increased emphasis on the already existing elevated health and safety protocols put in place last week. All non-essential workers are working from home. For those that wish to remain on-site, we are working with our general contractors, including Turner AECOM Hunt, to increase the health and safety measures we already have in place. We are also in regular contact with the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California and the Los Angeles and Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council. The trade councils and Hollywood Park are committed to continuing to provide work at a safe jobsite for all construction workers who can remain onsite and wish to continue working.”
The other new NFL stadium to open in the fall, Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, has construction still continuing. A worker at the site tested positive for the coronavirus last week; officials for the builders, Mortensen-McCarthy, said the worker had been offsite for more than a week in self-isolation and the area that they were working in was shut down and sanitized. The Raiders still plan to start play this season at the stadium, which seats 65,000.
While most of the attention in Los Angeles has been focused on SoFi Stadium’s progress, there is another big construction project ongoing at a sports venue: Dodger Stadium is undergoing a $100 million renovation with a two-acre plaza behind center field as well as upgraded outfield areas and a series of elevators that would allow for full access around the stadium. In a conversation posted to YouTube by the Dodgers on Tuesday, Dodgers President Stan Kasten said construction workers are “fully compliant with all of the regulations of the county, city and state, as well as the CDC and [World Health Organization]. All of those things are super important to all of us. But consistent with all of that guidance, the work is continuing.”
Another project that is continuing is the PGA Tour’s ‘Global Home’ in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, which is scheduled to open by the end of the year. While those four projects are continuing, work on the New York Islanders’ new arena at Belmont Park in Long Island has been halted. The 19,000-seat arena is part of the $1.3 billion Belmont Redevelopment Project, which broke ground last September and was scheduled to open for the 2021-22 season.
“We support Governor Cuomo’s efforts to eliminate the Covid-19 virus,” Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello said in a statement. “He has been the driving force behind the construction of Belmont Park Arena. The progress that has been made since the groundbreaking is truly incredible and is a credit to all of the construction workers that have been there every day. Those workers are all a part of our community and we want them safe and healthy.”
Dew Tour Rescheduled in Long Beach
The annual summer Dew Tour skateboard competition and festival has been rescheduled for September 10–13 at the Long Beach Convention Center, in Long Beach, California. It was originally scheduled for May 7–10 before being postponed.
The event was scheduled to be the last official global Olympic qualifying event in the U.S. for men’s and women’s skateboarding park and street competitions. With the Olympics postponed to 2021, World Skate is working to provide an update on the status of skateboarding’s suspended Olympic qualification system as the sport’s governing body.
“Our primary focus is still to ensure the safety and health of our athletes, fans, partners and staff,” said Courtney Gresik, vice president and general manager of Dew Tour. “The Dew Tour will return to Long Beach September 10–13 and it will continue to be a four-day event with world-class competition and a festival.”
In addition to the pro men’s and women’s skateboard competitions, Dew Tour includes an interactive sponsor village, Dew Tour festival, music and lifestyle activities including a public skate park. The event is free and open to the public and will be televised nationally on NBC.
NBA Still Working to Resume Season
To finish its season, the NBA may seclude players into clusters that would play games at a neutral site with no fans, reports ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, noting that the Chinese Basketball Association may use that approach to finish its season. The NBA’s scenario would have games being played in two cities with all players staying in those places, but any decisions would have to be approved by the NBA Players Association. The report by ESPN comes as media analyst Michael Nathanson told the Wall Street Journal, a shutdown of the NBA season with no playoffs would cost ESPN and ABC $481 million and TNT $211 million in lost ad revenue.
The NBA suspended its season on March 11 after a player, Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz, has preliminary tested positive for COVD-19. Since Gobert’s positive test, other NBA players have since also tested positive including his Utah Jazz teammate, Donovan Mitchell, along with Detroit Pistons forward Christian Wood, four players from the Brooklyn Nets including star forward Kevin Durant, two unnamed players from the Los Angeles Lakers and Marcus Smart from the Boston Celtics.
NHL Says No Decision Yet on Stanley Cup Playoffs
The National Hockey League says there have been no discussions about the 2019-2020 being shut down and eliminating the playoffs, but the league did announce a series of cancellations of the scouting combine June 1–6 in Buffalo, New York; the Bridgestone NHL awards June 18 in Las Vegas; and the NHL draft June 26–27 in Montreal.
“I think as time has gone on, we’ve recognized we might have a bigger window than we had originally thought with respect to the summer months and when we have to finish things to be ready for a full regular season next year,” Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said Friday.
The postponement of the Olympic and Paralympic Summer Games has opened up previously booked TV schedules for the NHL’s television partner, NBC, during the summer. The league has reportedly asked teams to look into the availability of their home arenas through the end of August.
“I will say that it remains our hope, if not our goal, to be playing hockey sooner than then,” Daly said. “Depending on how things play out, we’d love to be playing sometime in the spring, and then if we have to leak into early summer, we’d love to have that problem. But I don’t think we’re far enough along in understanding where this is going to know what’s possible at this point in time.”
The ECHL, the third level of professional hockey in North America, has canceled the remainder of its season. The league has 26 teams throughout the United States. The ECHL’s decision makes it the first U.S.-based pro league to cancel the remainder of the season because of the coronavirus. The NHL on March 12 announced plans to put its season on pause, and the American Hockey League followed four days later. The world championships, put on by the International Ice Hockey Federation, has been canceled.
Major League Soccer Plans on Full Season
Major League Soccer has extended the suspension of its league through May 10 in accordance with CDC guidelines and also extended its training moratorium until April 3. Commissioner Don Garber told ESPN on March 24 that the league still plans to play a full 34-game season and could extend the schedule for the playoffs and MLS Cup into December if needed.
CONCACAF suspended its Champions League tournament and Olympic Summer Games qualifying tournament and the NWSL has announced that its season, which was scheduled to start April 18, will be delayed. Mexico’s national team also has canceled a scheduled exhibition against Colombia on May 30 in Denver. The U.S. men’s and women’s national teams previously canceled four of its friendlies, two for the women’s team in the U.S. and two for the men’s team in Europe.
The USL Championship has suspended play through May 10. While the USL’s different league levels are suspended, the league will be turning to esports and setting up the inaugural USL eCup: Rocket League Edition, which will see 32 teams competing in a one-on-one duel format. Eight groups of four teams will start play March 31.
European Soccer Scrambles to Finish
The English Premier League is coming up with plans to have clubs quarantined into camps, then having games played in two cities with no spectators during the summer to finish the 2019-20 season. The Independent in England first reported the details, saying that the remaining 92 games would be played with several each day over June and July.
Players for each team and the staffs would be confined to hotels with full testing and quarantine conditions. Previous reports said that if the league does not finish, the 20 clubs would have to collectively repay more than $944 million in TV money to its various broadcasting partner.
Europe’s ‘Big 5’ leagues of England, Germany, France, Spain and Italy all have suspended their seasons indefinitely. UEFA also said a group has been formed to figure out how to also schedule the completion of the UEFA Champions League and Europa League, which were suspended at the round of 16 stage. There will reportedly be a video conference on Wednesday to determine the competition’s fates this season with playing games without spectators discussed as an option after Aleksander Ceferin, the president of European football’s governing body, said this season could be “lost” if competitive action does not resume by the end of June.
Throughout world club soccer, only Belarus is still holding league play after the other last remaining league, Australia’s A League, suspended play on March 24. Two of the biggest competitions in soccer outside of the FIFA World Cup, the UEFA European Championships and Copa America in South America, have been postponed to 2021. The Copa America will still be co-hosted by Argentina and Colombia in 2021.
NFL to Still Hold Draft
The NFL will no longer hold its April 23–25 draft on the Las Vegas Strip or incorporate any public events, but the event will still be held in a virtual setting after commissioner Roger Goodell sent a leaguewide memo saying the NFL Management Council Executive Committee was “unanimous and unequivocal that the Draft should go forward as scheduled,” despite the coronavirus pandemic. In the memo, reported by ESPN, Goodell told teams they should prepared to hold the draft via videoconferences outside of team facilities and with as few people involved as possible.
The league said it made the decision to cancel live events in Las Vegas after seeking guidance from medical experts such as the CDC and in coordination with public authorities in Nevada and the city of Las Vegas. Plans had called for picks to be announced in front of crowds by the Caesars Forum, with players arriving via boats next to the Bellagio fountains. A massive NFL Draft Experience fan festival was also for the Forum property.
The 2019 NFL Draft in Nashville drew an estimated 600,000 spectators over three days. The 2021 event is scheduled for Cleveland with the 2023 planned for Kansas City, leaving 2022 an open year on the NFL’s schedule.
Tour de France May Go Without Fans
The Tour de France may still be held as planning starting June 27 but without spectators, French sports minister Roxana Maracineanu said on Twitter. The tour has only been postponed in case of World War I from 1914–1918 and World War II from 1939–1945. The Tour attracts more than 10 million spectators every year.
“The Tour is a sports monument. It is too soon to decide. There is a time for everything. For now, we have a more urgent battle to fight. Let us focus on this mountain in front of us and then consider what’s next,” Maracineanu wrote.
In an interview with radio station France Bleu, Maracineanu added “the Tour’s economic model is not based on ticket sales but on TV rights. During this period of confinement, everybody is aware of the risks and responsible. People understand the benefits of staying home and watching event on TV rather than live. It would not be too detrimental to follow the Tour on TV.”
U.S. Open In Doubt
The tournament is scheduled to be held June 18–21 at Winged Foot Golf Course in Mamaroneck, New York, which has been shut down as part of an executive order issued by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has stopped all non-essential businesses statewide. The Post says that a date in the fall, perhaps September, is being discussed and that Winged Foot has been told by the United States Golf Association that the tournament will not be held during its originally scheduled time period.
The 2020 PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco was scheduled for May 11–17 before it was postponed, and the Masters announced its postponement on March 13. The PGA Tour has canceled all events through May 10 and the LPGA Tour canceled three events in the Far East plus postponed the Volvik Founders Cup (March 19–22), Kia Classic (March 26–29) and ANA Inspiration (April 2–5), the year’s first women’s major.
The ANA Inspiration has been rescheduled for September 10–13 in Rancho Mirage, California, and The Cambia Portland Classic in Portland, Oregon, which had been scheduled for those dates, will now take place September 17–20. The LPGA also rescheduled two tournaments after the news that the Olympic and Paralympic Summer Games will be postponed, pushing the Evian Championship in Evian-les-Bains, France to August 6–9. It was previously scheduled for July 23–26.
Indianapolis 500 To Be Held in Fall
The Indianapolis 500 has been rescheduled for Sunday, August 23 due to the coronavirus pandemic, officials from IndyCar and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced. The GMR Grand Prix, run for years as a lead-in to the Indy 500, will be rescheduled for July 4 and turned into a double-header with the NASCAR Cup Series Brickyard 400 running the following day.
The Indianapolis 500 was originally scheduled for May 24, in its traditional spot on the calendar during Memorial Day weekend. The GMR Grand Prix was scheduled to be run on May 9.
“The month of May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is my favorite time of year and like our fans, I am disappointed that we have had to reschedule the Indianapolis 500,” Roger Penske said. “However, the health and safety of our event participants and spectators is our top priority and we believe that postponing the event is the responsible decision with the conditions and restrictions we are facing. We will continue to focus on ways we can enhance the customer experience in the months ahead and I’m confident we will welcome fans with a transformed facility and a global spectacle when we run the world’s greatest race.”
As a result of the schedule changes, the IndyCar races scheduled for August 16 and August 22 have been rescheduled. The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio in Lexington, Ohio is now scheduled for August 9, and the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway in Madison, Illinois is now scheduled for August 30.
IndyCar postponed four races in St. Petersburg, Florida, Birmingham, Alabama, Long Beach, California, and Austin, Texas and is scheduled to start its season on May 30 in Detroit. In place of live racing, iRacing will partner with IndyCar for six virtual events starting March 28. Each race will be streamed live on indycar.com at 4 p.m. ET and the inaugural virtual race venue was Watkins Glen International, followed by Barber Motorsports Park (April 4), “Driver’s Choice” track (April 11), “Random Draw” track (April 18), Circuit of The Americas (April 25) and a non-IndyCar “Dream” track (May 2).
NASCAR Goes Virtual After Postponing Races
NASCAR, which has postponed several races due to the coronavirus, has found that its virtual racing series is such a hit that the events will be on the Fox broadcast network and move from its sister station FS1 until further notice.
NASCAR and iRacing, in the absence of NASCAR Cup Series events through May 3, formed the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series, an exhibition esports series that started March 22 with stars such as Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer and Kyle Larson competing.
The eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series will use the motorsports racing simulation platform often used by NASCAR drivers to prepare for events. Its first virtual event, showcasing the track at Homestead-Miami Speedway, drew just over 900,000 viewers on FS1 to become the most-watched esports event on TV in the United States.
NASCAR earlier postponed events in Atlanta; Homestead-Miami, Florida; Fort Worth, Texas; Bristol, Tennessee; Richmond, Virginia; Lincoln, Alabama; and Dover, Delaware. The series insists it will run a full schedule, which could mean creative scheduling that includes doubleheaders at tracks scheduled to host two races this season.
“We intend to race all our 36 points races as well as the All-Star event,” NASCAR President Steve Phelps said. “What those look like at this particular point we’re looking broadly about what our options are. At this particular point, we would like to finish the season at Phoenix and keep the playoff portion intact. With that said, it will require a lot of different opportunities for us to look at.”
Formula 1 Postpones Eighth Event
One of the jewels of the Formula 1 calendar, the Monaco Grand Prix, has been canceled and will not be held for the first time since 1954 while three more races on the circuit’s schedule have been postponed. Formula 1 organizers have said they still hope to run a revised schedule of up to 18 races this season after cancelling eight races in Australia, Bahrain, Vietnam, China, the Netherlands, Spain and Azerbaijan in addition to Monaco.
“Formula 1, the FIA and the three promoters have taken these decisions in order to ensure the health and safety of the travelling staff, championship participants and fans, which remains our primary concern,” the series said in a statement, adding it expects to begin the 2020 season “as soon as it’s safe to do so after May” but will monitor the situation.
In its place, the F1 Esports Virtual Grand Prix series launched on March 22 with a virtual Bahrain Grand Prix and featuring a number of current F1 drivers. Every subsequent race weekend will see the postponed real-world Formula 1 race replaced with a Virtual Grand Prix, with the initiative currently scheduled to run until May.
Wimbledon Monitoring Situation
The All England Lawn and Tennis Club says that it is evaluating all scenarios including postponement and potentially cancellation for Wimbledon, but it will not hold the tournament behind closed doors. Wimbledon has been canceled in its history, from 1915–1918 because of World War I and from 1940–1945 because of World War II.
“The unprecedented challenge presented by the COVID-19 crisis continues to affect our way of life in ways that we could not have imagined, and our thoughts are with all those affected in the UK and around the world,” said Richard Lewis, MBE, the club’s chief executive. “The single most important consideration is one of public health, and we are determined to act responsibly through the decisions we make. We are working hard to bring certainty to our plans for 2020.”
The French Open, scheduled to begin May 18 in Paris, has been postponed. The tournament announced it would start instead on September 20, one week after the conclusion of the U.S. Open in New York City.
Both the ATP and WTA Tours, which initially suspended play through May 3, extended the suspension of their tours through June 7, including combined events in Madrid and Rome. Previously, affected events included combined events such as the Miami Open and BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California, along with notable ATP events in Houston and Monte Carlo and a longtime WTA stop in Charleston, South Carolina.
Major League Rugby Cancels Season
Major League Rugby, a professional league with 11 teams in the United States and one in Toronto, has announced that its 2020 season will be canceled. It was to be the third season for the fledgling league, which is officially sanctioned by USA Rugby.
“On behalf of MLR and all of our teams, I am saddened to announce that the remainder of the 2020 season is cancelled. We believe it is ultimately the correct decision as we factored in health and safety risks for all parties,” said MLR Commissioner George Killebrew. “I want to ensure our fans that there is no doubt MLR will be back in 2021 and will emerge bigger and better than ever before. We will be using this time as an opportunity to grow all aspects of MLR and we’re excited to continue this journey into 2021, and for many years to come.”
The league will launch MLR 2020: Virtual, a gaming competition between the teams on Rugby20 to be live streamed to fans on Twitch. In addition, the league will team up with Feeding America COVID-19 Response Fund to allow fans to donate in support of food banks during the live streams.
MLB Cancels Games in Mexico, Puerto Rico
Major League Baseball called off planned regular-season games in Mexico and Puerto Rico. The two-game series in Mexico City was scheduled for April 18–19 between the Arizona Diamondbacks and San Diego Padres, while the Puerto Rico three-game series from April 28–30 would involve the New York Mets and Miami Marlins.
MLB is following CDC guidelines and will delay Opening Day while 2020 World Baseball Classic Qualifier games in Tucson, Arizona, was postponed indefinitely.
“MLB will keep fans updated on decisions regarding plans for the 2020 schedule in the days and weeks ahead,” the league said in a statement. “The Clubs remain committed to playing as many games as possible when the season begins. We will continue to monitor ongoing events and undertake the precautions and best practices recommended by public health experts, and urge all baseball fans to follow suit. MLB extends its best wishes to all the individuals and communities who have been impacted by the coronavirus.”
Volleyball Tour Schedule Disrupted
The AVP beach volleyball tour will be shuffled because of the coronavirus, with two events canceled and two of its biggest events being postponed to later dates. Tour events scheduled for Austin, Texas and Seattle have been canceled. The tour will now start on June 19 with the Gold Series New York City Open, which was scheduled for earlier in the year. The event in Huntington Beach, California, which traditionally has been the season opener, will instead be the season finale from October 2–4. Other dates on the tour remain as scheduled.
Kentucky Derby Postponed Until September
The Kentucky Derby has been postponed from May 2 to September 5. The event will mark the 146th running of the historic race at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. In addition, the Kentucky Oaks will move from its previous date on May 1 to September 4. The two-week Kentucky Derby Festival, which features more than 70 local events leading up to the race, will also shift in conjunction with the new race dates.
“This is good news for Louisville and great news for the hospitality industry and the 27,000 local workers whose jobs depend on tourism,” said Karen Williams, President and CEO of Louisville Tourism. “There is also no question that beyond the significant economic impact, the fabric and heart of the city is tied to our annual hosting of the Kentucky Derby and the community comes together around the Kentucky Derby Festival events. The weekend selected in September to reschedule America’s longest annually run sporting event is typically a light period for visitation, so this news bodes well for increased revenues during that time. With the other growing festivals and events planned for the month such as the popular DWP concerts, we are looking forward to tourism rebounding and having a robust September.”
Penn Relays Canceled for First Time Ever
The Penn Relays at the University of Pennsylvania has been canceled after having been run without interruption in Philadelphia since 1895. If rescheduled, the three-day event will be shortened into a one-day event to provide opportunities for youth, high school and open runners. The Penn Relays was altered in 1917 and 1918 during World War I and during World War II, travel restrictions reduced participation and spectator attendance while gas rationing was in effect in 1943 and 1944.
“No one associated with the Penn Relays has ever wanted to see a cancellation,” said Penn Relays Director Dave Johnson. “While participating in the meet as an athlete, coach or official remains a bucket list goal for many, the event has long served as an annual homecoming for families, friends, teams and social groups. Without the Penn Relays, springtime in Philadelphia will not be the same.”
Colleges Conferences Cancels Spring Sports
The Pac-12 Conference, which traditionally has some of the stronger spring sports athletes and teams in the country, canceled all spring athletic events both in non-conference and conference play on March 14 and were followed three days later by the Southeastern Conference and the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Pac-12, SEC and ACC follow earlier decisions by the Ivy League and the Atlantic 10 Conference. The Big 12 Conference suspended events until May 31 and the Big Ten Conference suspended events until May 4.
Boston Marathon Pushed to September
The Boston Athletic Association has announced that it will postpone the Boston Marathon to September 14. The 124th edition of the race had been scheduled for April 20. The BAA 5K, which draws a field of 10,000 participants, will also be rescheduled to a later date.
“On matters of public health and safety we take our guidance from the officials entrusted with protecting the public in this area,” said Tom Grilk, CEO of the BAA. “We understand our role, along with our partners, in ensuring a safe environment for all participants, volunteers, spectators and supporters that meets the standards set by those officials.
“The BAA’s mission of promoting health through sports, especially running, has guided our organization for more than a century. In collaboration with our many partners, we look forward to welcoming the world to Boston in September in celebration of the 124th Boston Marathon,” Grilk said.
NCAA Cancels Winter, Spring Championships
All college athletic national championships for winter sports and spring sports will be canceled, the NCAA announced on March 12. The governing body for college sports had previously said the NCAA winter events would be held without fans before taking further steps.
“Today, NCAA President Mark Emmert and the Board of Governors canceled the Division I men’s and women’s 2020 basketball tournaments, as well as all remaining winter and spring NCAA championships. This decision is based on the evolving COVID-19 public health threat, our ability to ensure the events do not contribute to spread of the pandemic, and the impracticality of hosting such events at any time during this academic year given ongoing decisions by other entities,” the NCAA statement read.
The decision by the NCAA comes after 19 conference tournaments that were scheduled for this week were canceled, some of them having already started. The NCAA has also made an announcement about the eligibility of senior spring sports athletes.
Division I Council Coordination Committee agrees eligibility relief is appropriate for spring sports: pic.twitter.com/u7hwYOyTDV
— Inside the NCAA (@InsidetheNCAA) March 13, 2020
Sail GP Cancels San Francisco Event
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the San Francisco SailGP event scheduled for May 2–3 has been canceled, said event organizers, adding that options are being explored to maintain a full schedule in the series’ second season.
SailGP CEO Sir Russell Coutts said: “We are of course disappointed to cancel our event scheduled for May 2-3 in San Francisco. This decision has been made to avoid increasing the already significant risk of COVID-19. Health and safety must be the top priority across the world during this unprecedented situation and it is our responsibility to ensure we do not further the spread of this pandemic.”
Major Esports and Gaming Event Canceled
The biggest video game and esports conference in the United States, E3 2020, has been canceled. The event has been held in Los Angeles since 1995 and brings together gaming companies around the world; attendees who had reserved spots and tickets will be offered full refunds.
“After careful consultation with our member companies regarding the health and safety of everyone in our industry … we have made the difficult decision to cancel E3 2020,” the Entertainment Software Association said in a press release. “Following increased and overwhelming concerns about the COVID-19 virus, we felt this was the best way to proceed during such an unprecedented global situation.”