As Puerto Rico Fights to Recover, Rescheduled Sports Events Are Imminent
4 Oct, 2017By: Mary Helen Sprecher
The notice was brief, but it didn’t really need to be longer: IBT 64 Postponed.
IBT, for those not dialed into the competitive sportfishing world, is the International Billfish Tournament. And this, the 64th edition of the event was scheduled to be held in Puerto Rico.
Right now, though, most would agree that Puerto Rico has more to worry about than a fishing tournament. Having been slammed by Hurricane Maria, the island is facing weeks without electricity, along with widespread destruction of property.
The storm knocked out the entire grid across the U.S. territory of 3.4 million. The loss of power has left residents hunting for gas canisters for cooking, collecting rainwater or steeling themselves mentally for the hardships to come in the tropical heat. There’s also a lack of running water, cell and wireless communications and workable sewage disposal.
So it’s safe to say a fishing tournament, with all its attendant frivolity, is understandably way down on the list of priorities.
IBT 64 has tentatively been rescheduled for November; however, whether the island’s infrastructure and power gird will cooperate in time remains to be seen.
A more immediate concern is the USTA Junior Open 4 singles and doubles tournament for ages 12-18. That event, scheduled for San Juan from October 20-29, may be iffy.
The Puerto Rico Tipoff college basketball event, scheduled for November, has already been moved to Coastal Carolina University. Organizers said there was no other choice.
“The aftermath of the hurricane has caused an immense hardship to the island, and our thoughts are with the people of Puerto Rico during this difficult time,” ESPN Senior Vice President of College Sports Programming and Events Pete Derzis said in a statement. “We are hopeful to be able to return next year.”
Another possible casualty of the storm may be Puerto Rico’s baseball economy – at least initially. Six Puerto Rican professional clubs compete from November to January, and professionals from North America also play there. The Hiram Bithorn Stadium is also a frequent host for Major League Baseball series; in 2010 it was host to several New York Mets-Florida Marlins games. In fact, multiple MLB players have expressed concern for relatives still living on the island and have noted they have been unable to get in touch with them.
Other fall and early winter events scheduled for the island include the Divas Half Marathon (scheduled for November), the BIC WING One Design Worlds and 6th annual Paddle Royal – The San Juan SUP Cup in December and the Puerto Rico Dragon Boat Festival (also December).
Those aren’t the only sports event Puerto Rico has hosted, or plans to host, however. The island is a triathlon Mecca; fortunately, the IRONMAN isn’t scheduled to return until mid-March of 2018. The Mayaguez Triathlon takes place in mid-December and the San Blas de Illescas Half Marathon, Coamo, takes place in February. The El Gigante Marathon, an ultrarunning event, will be held in Adjuntas in July. The Puerto Rico PGA Open takes place in March.
Ironically, surfing’s Rip Curl Cup was cancelled because of a lack of waves this past summer and has been rescheduled for August 2018.
There is never a good time for a hurricane, but this one is particularly devastating, given Puerto Rico’s recent work to position itself as a sports destination. Only time will tell whether or not the work of rebuilding will allow events scheduled for 2018 to take place.
The website for Puerto Rico Tourism has created an updated page, allowing travelers to learn about airport availability and more.
Those wishing to contribute to the recovery efforts on the island can use the UNITED Puerto Rico site. And Puerto Rico Tourism has expressed its optimism:
“We are confident that Puerto Rico will quickly recover. Our tourism infrastructure is strong and our people are even stronger. We recently came together to help our Caribbean neighbors after Irma, and it’s this generosity, the hospitality of our people, and the beauty of our island that will continue to encourage millions of travelers like you to come visit.”