How will Seattle sports be impacted by coronavirus crowd ban?
Washington governor Jay Inslee made an unprecedented announcement during a Wednesday morning press conference, banning events with crowds of 250 or more in certain parts of the state through March 31 due to the ongoing COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.
King, Pierce and Snohomish counties are subject to the ban, which means some drastic measures will have to be taken in the Seattle sports community. But just how much will the city and its teams be impacted? Those are big questions that will need to be answered in the coming days.
The Seattle Mariners, who are currently in Arizona for spring training and just two weeks away from hosting a seven-game homestand to open the 2020 MLB season, released a statement shortly after Inslee’s press conference.
“The Seattle Mariners are working with the Major League Baseball Office of the Commissioner on alternative plans for our games that were scheduled for the end of March at T-Mobile Park in Seattle,” the statement reads. “While we hope to be back to playing baseball in Seattle as soon as possible, the health and safety of our community is the most important consideration. We will provide more information about our plans for the games as it becomes available.”
Statement from the Mariners. pic.twitter.com/cwNnkxSLGy
— Shannon Drayer (@shannondrayer) March 11, 2020
While the Mariners could play the games at an empty T-Mobile Park or, a report Tuesday night from The Athletic said the team could enact a contingency plan that would see them starting the regular season at their spring training ballpark in Peoria, Ariz.
There’s also the possibility of MLB taking matters into its own hands and postponing the season, which could be under consideration since the COVID-19 outbreak has not been limited to the Pacific Northwest. MLB has already taken a small measure by limiting the persons allowed in clubhouses to essential personnel only, something it announced earlier this week in a joint statement with the NBA, MLS and NHL.
Inslee said during his press conference that he had talked to Mariners owner John Stanton.
“Missing a home opener is a big, big deal to the state of Washington, but he and others understand,” Inslee said.
The Mariners may be the most high-profile team to be impacted by Washington’s ban, but the first-year Seattle Dragons of the XFL football league will be the first pro sports team that needs to adjust its plans. The Dragons have a scheduled 4 p.m. Sunday contest at CenturyLink Field against the Los Angeles Wildcats.
The Sounders began the MLS season on March 1 but will have some time to figure out their situation. Their next game is set for Saturday at Houston, though they are scheduled for a March 21 matchup with FC Dallas at CenturyLink Field. That is the only home game in the Sounders’ next four contests, however, as they aren’t scheduled to play in Seattle again until April 18.
Though the ban is currently limited to the three counties in western Washington, that may only be the initial ban and could stretch out to other parts of the state in short order. That may mean bad news for Spokane, which is set to host two rounds of NCAA men’s basketball tournament games on March 19 and 21. The games will be announced Sunday when the field of 68 is set.
The stretch run for the Western Hockey League will also take a hit. The Seattle Thunderbirds have five games remaining in their regular season, including three at the Showare Center, their home arena in Kent. The Everett Silvertips, who play home games at the Angel of the Winds Arena in downtown Everett, also have five games left, and while only one will be at home, they have two to play in Kennewick against the Tri-City Americans. The Silvertips have clinched a playoff spot and the Thunderbirds are still in contention for a wild-card berth, so both teams could be playing into the spring.
Washington isn’t the only area of the country taking measures that impact sports events. San Francisco mayor London Breed banned events of 1,000 or more on Wednesday, which rules out attendance to upcoming NBA and MLB games. The Warriors responded that they will play in an empty arena for their upcoming home games, while a March 24 exhibition game in San Francisco between the Giants and Oakland Athletics has been canceled.