Late Summer/Early Fall Being Targeted as Restart Date
13 May, 2020By: Michael Popke
Majority of Event Owners Seem Comfortable Putting a Season Between Themselves and COVID-19
People are still talking about the Seton Hall University Sports Poll, which was released in early April and revealed that 72 percent of Americans would not attend sporting events before a coronavirus vaccine was available. Only 12 percent said they would attend if social distancing could be maintained.
Indeed, it looks like live sports might never be quite the same again.
For weeks now, people have been asking when sports will hit the restart button, and while it’s impossible to say exactly when COVID-19 will cease to be a threat — and even harder to predict when parents will feel comfortable traveling with their children to participate in large sporting events — some professional leagues and organizations are making noise about returning in late summer or early fall.
Right now, given the fact that pro, college, high school and youth sports have been idle since mid-March, that seems like an eternity.
Much remains to be seen between now and then, including when medical officials will note a firm decline in coronavirus cases, when quarantine and large-gathering restrictions will be lifted in various states and, most importantly, when parents will be comfortable taking their children (and themselves) to events.
Individual Events Returning First
What does seem certain, however, is that individual events — not entire or partial seasons — will return first. Running events (road races, marathons, trail races, endurance runs); cycling events; fishing competitions; and golf tournaments were among the first to schedule new dates.
Rescheduled events include (but are not limited to) the following:
• The Pikes Peak Cycling Hill Climb is one of the earliest events to return and is now scheduled for Aug. 8.
• The USA Water Polo 2020 Masters National Championship, originally scheduled for June 12-14, will now be held Aug. 21-23.
• The Dirty Kanza mountain bike event has moved from May to Sept. 10-13.
• The 2020 USA Triathlon Off-Road National Championships, initially taking place May 16, has been rescheduled for Sept. 13.
• The Boston Marathon, originally scheduled for April 20, is now slated for Sept. 14.
• The 2020 Bass Pro Shops Big Bass Bash presented by Berkley at Kentucky Lake has been rescheduled for Sept. 19-20.
• The Yeti Beti Bike Bash, originally planned for May 31, has been moved to Sept. 20, with registration paused until July 1.
• The Sea Otter Classic, originally scheduled for April, is now happening Oct. 1-4.
Meanwhile, the PGA TOUR announced plans to resume its season beginning June 11-14 with the Charles Schwab Challenge — three weeks later than originally scheduled and with no fans in attendance. It also unveiled the rest of its revised events schedule here.
“We have a level of confidence that is based upon what we see [with] changes and developments being made in the world of testing [and] available tests,” Andy Pazder, the Tour’s executive vice president and chief of operations, said in mid-April on a conference call with members of the golf media, according to GolfDigest.com. “So we’re optimistic, but I’m not going to say on this call that I have 110 percent certainty. But we are very confident that we will be able to play that second week in June.”
Few Youth Events Rescheduled Yet
A few events for younger athletes are back on the schedule, but not many. They include but are not limited to the following:
• The Association of Collegiate Anglers, though not technically a youth-sports event, is still targeting May 21-22 (yes, 2020) for the BoatUS Collegiate Bass Fishing Championship on Pickwick Lake in Alabama.
• The 2020 Ferguson North American Sand Soccer Championships, originally planned for June, have been rescheduled for Aug. 7-9.
• The World’s Largest Swimming Lesson, a global event dedicated to teaching children and adults to swim that originally was scheduled for mid-June, will now take place July 16 (assuming public pools are open).
Some event owners have already created entirely new schedules for the remainder of the calendar year. Fishing League Worldwide (FLW), for example, postponed all of its tournaments and then announced all-new dates beginning in late May. Click here for the full schedule.
Other event owners are still in a holding pattern and waiting to make decisions based on whether events will go forward. Officials at USA Softball noted they had not yet reached a decision on whether to hold or postpone the U18 Women’s National Team Open Tryout, originally scheduled for June 15.
Although the U.S. Tennis Association has yet to announce the postponement or rescheduling of the U.S. Open — set for Aug. 24-Sept. 13 — all other USTA-sanctioned events were suspended through May 31. USA Racquetball cancelled its National Singles and National Junior Championships for 2020 but has not yet made a determination on the status of its U.S. Open this fall.
Other event owners have thrown in the towel for 2020 completely. The 2020 Minto US Open Pickleball Championships have been canceled, and event officials are now actively promoting the 2021 Championships, scheduled for April 17-24, 2021.
Most ski and snowboard resorts across the country shuttered for the season and used the extra time to actively pursue campaigns to encourage skiers to buy passes for the 2020-2021 winter season.
Spring sports sponsored by municipal park and recreation agencies, many of which are a mix of both youth and adult programs, are being cancelled, too. Many parks officials are holding off as long as they can about deciding whether summer programs — including the opening of swimming pools — will be go on as planned.
No-Go For Expos Likely
Plenty of trade shows scheduled to take place in various cities this spring and summer have been cancelled, and others look dubious. Casualties include March’s International Sportsmen’s Expo in Sandy, Utah; June’s Outdoor Retailer Summer Market in Denver; and the National Marine Manufacturers Association’s Progressive Insurance Saltwater Fishing Expo, slated for March in Edison, N.J.
As of this writing, though, the World Waterpark Association’s Symposium & Trade Show in Las Vegas was still a go for Oct. 6-9.
With many convention centers being commandeered as testing centers and makeshift hospitals, fewer venues likely will be available until medical demand abates. What’s more, trade shows and conventions don’t lend themselves to following social distancing and quarantine restrictions.
That’s why the virtual trade show may be our best bet going forward — at least for now.
How Much Longer?
Easing social distancing guidelines initially will happen at work and schools, Tom Cove, president of the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, predicted in an interview with SGB Executive. Should those efforts prove successful in containing the spread of coronavirus, sports should come back “very quickly,” he said.
“The $64,000 question is when it’s all going to happen,” Cove added. “The only facts that we know for sure are that this is unprecedented, and no one knows how long it’s going to go on.”
Presuming that the curve of the virus’s spread flattens, he foresees some organizations eyeing ways to return later this summer.
“We’ve talked to a number of youth sports organizations, and there are a lot of folks who are planning to slowly dip their toe in the water to organize some sort of sports,” Cove said. “There has to be a lot more progress made on social distancing within sports to get us on a field in July, but people are keeping their fingers crossed and planning for it.”
An additional factor that will come into play is school schedules. Some states closed schools for the remainder of the academic year; others, if they do restart, may wind up running into, or perhaps even through, the summer — which could make establishing any sort of abbreviated youth sports season difficult.
Nothing about this is easy, and the cessation of sports has rocked our world — throwing event owners, athletes, coaches, parents and fans for a major loop. We have a long way to go, but the fact that so many organizations are actively pursuing ways to bring back the games is just the jolt of encouragement we need during these uncertain times.