Right now, all that a sports fan wants to do is see game, whether it’s in person or at a stadium on arena. The coronavirus pandemic has shutdown the sports world including pro sports, college sports, high school sports, little league baseball and other youth sports like soccer and lacrosse. For many sports fans, having the recent NFL Draft, WNBA Draft and the ESPN “The Final Dance” documentary about the Chicago Bulls has been a godsend because we all can really use something to cheer about these days.
But what happens when this national and worldwide nightmare is over or gets to a point where it’s really under control?
What is it going to be like to go to a game or to watch on a game on television?
I don’t think anybody knows exactly what to expect, but there’s one thing that I know for sure…the “new normal” is going to look different than the “old normal”.
Over the last week or so, there have been reports surfacing about plans to re-open team facilities in preparation for the NBA and NHL seasons to resume.
There have also been indications that there’s a good chance that the baseball season will begin with plans including multiple games to be played each day with no fans at a handful of stadiums in communities where the virus has really low numbers. The NHL has also been talking about having teams set up base at a few arenas in safe cities to resume the regular season, have the playoffs and award the Stanley Cup. The NBA will soon open up the facilities in those cities that are beginning the re-opening phases.
When the games come back, there will likely be no fans but the numbers are promising to the point where some reports are suggesting that sometime this summer and even when the NFL and college football begins in the fall, that there could be limited fans in attendance. Teams have reportedly contacted architects to look into how to space out seating and make temporary and even permanent improvements into stadiums and arenas to allow social distancing. For example, if the Schwartz family buys four tickets to an Islanders game, many of the seats around us would have to be taken out of the ticketing system so that other people could buy tickets and be seated a safe distance away.
I think some of the minor league and niche sports can adapt to this rather easily because they have the room to spread people out. Let’s take a minor league baseball team for example that let’s say draws an average of 3,000 fans a game in a 6 or 7,000 seat stadium. You could probably still sell tickets to that number or close to it and just have the fans spread out throughout the stadium. You’re not going to see 40,000 fans at a Yankees or Mets game, 18,000 people at a Knicks game and probably won’t see 70,000 people at a Jets or Giants game, but there is a chance to have some fans in the house when the games start up.
And you can also be sure that fans are going to be required to wear masks and may even have to have their temperatures taken before going through the turnstiles. The concessions at the games will also have to be handled differently. The number of fans in the stadium restaurants and team stores will have to be under control. I’m thinking these teams will figure out a way for fans to shop for souvenirs and order food on an app and have it dropped off at your seats. I’m guessing that interactive areas like Kiddie Field at the Mets games might have to be shut down for the foreseeable future.
The games are also going to be different for the sports media. Even before the shutdown, teams were taking precautions by not allowing reporters in locker rooms and instead bringing the coaches/managers and players to an interview area and keeping everyone six feet away from them. There are many that believe that this will be the new normal when it comes to covering games. Reporters will still be able to get their quotes and sound bites, but what could disappear is that opportunity to have some personal conversations with athletes that a reporter has built up. I know I’m going to miss that until there is a chance to do it again.
Hey the reality is that I do believe sports is going to come back soon but it’s going to look a lot different. I can’t wait to see my kids play sports again and I can’t wait to go with my family to a game or watch a game on television. We’re just going to have to deal with the new normal and make the adjustments that it will take to be safe during this time. It’s been long enough and our communities have done a great job flatting the curve. Let’s play ball, drop the puck, toss the ball up a midcourt, and let’s kickoff in the fall.
We just have to do it safely.