Okay fine, let’s talk about coronavirus and stadiums

Since all anyone wants to read about right now is the spread of coronavirus — technically “the new coronavirus” or “COVID-19” since lots of things are already coronaviruses, including many common colds, but the peorple have spoken and far be it from me to argue — let’s talk about this new impending pandemic, the global reaction, and what it could mean for sports and sports venues, in both the short and long runs.

In short, it’s a giant mess, with no clear directives from either government officials or disease experts, in part because nobody knows yet which measures for preventing spread will be most effective, and in part because people are panicky and prone to making decisions more on the basis of what they think will get them in the least trouble rather than what’s good science. It should all shake out more clearly in the next few weeks, but until then it’s likely to remain fairly chaotic and contradictory, in both the sports world and elsewhere.

The more long-term question, meanwhile, is whether virus fears will create lasting changes in how people think about watching sports. Already we’ve seen indications that many fans would rather sit at home and watch on their hi-def TVs than deal with increased ticket prices — which has encouraged teams to target their marketing even more on selling fewer tickets at higher prices to fans for whom money is no object. Will this new virus scare only further encourage people to just watch sporting events (and concerts) on livestreams, since watching things in person will suddenly be seen as a health risk? If, say, NBA or NHL playoff games have to be played in front of empty seats, will sports leagues begin rethinking how they make their money, with an eye toward a business model based even more on charging viewers at home? And if so, will we see even more sports teams demanding smaller stadiums or arenas with fewer, more lavish seats (and six feet in between them) to fit the new normal?

There are still many, many different ways this can go, both epidemiologically and in terms of fan and league behavior, so I’m not going to pretend to have an answer to any of these questions. (Except that sports team owners will surely choose whatever route they think will make them the most money, because that’s their one job.) It’ll all worth keeping an eye on, though, and not just if you, like me, have baseball tickets for later this month and are wondering if you’re going to get to use them. Hopefully by then more rational heads will have prevailed and there will be a clear path to keep everyone healthy while minimizing disruption — though nobody ever went broke wagering on “people will do the dumbest thing possible in order to cover their own personal butts,” so maybe best not to hope too hard.

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22 comments on “Okay fine, let’s talk about coronavirus and stadiums

  1. I’ll admit I sold my MLS tickets this weekend, not out of fear that’d I’d get the virus, but because I was sick (just a cold) and they said to not go to events if you are sick.

  2. Just comment on the sport, when you go political as you did here, it certainly turns off people who otherwise enjoy your journalism.

    1. Sort of the point of this website to examine the intersection between sports finance and politics. have you not noticed that????
      That is why i read it.

    2. FoS Readers.

      Andy Zimbalist, co-author of “Sports, Jobs and Taxes; The Economic Impact of Sports Teams and Stadiums,” effective immediately will take over here at FoS. Mr. Zimbalist is an expert in the field and we’re pleased he’s chosen to be a part of our organization.

      Mr. DeMause has accepted a position as African FoS correspondent reporting from Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. We thank Mr. DeMause for his many years of service.

      BUST-UP (Brooklyn Understands Stadium Transactions – Unexplained taxation Policy) Holdings, LLC

      Next Up: Oakland Athletics new Howard Terminal Stadium – Unimaginable Economic Benefits.
      March 10, 2020.
      Oakland – The Athletics new HT Stadium, 15,000 seat MLB ballpark innovate design of Club Seating (Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze) and Luxury Boxes only, will be a economic boon to the Oakland docks ……

      Microphone still on…. finally able to get rid of Neil. Geez, writing was great, but personal and political commentary was s***. No loyalty whatsoever. Andy’s writing will be fair and balanced. Business leaders, Chambers of Commerce, political officials and team owners will love his Supply-Side Economics and Economic Benefits positions. A toast. FoS (Fox on Sports) is back on track!

  3. Contrary to popular belief Coronavirus is not Resident Evil or the Walking Dead. Do empty arenas and Stadiums are not a necessity.Rather it is a wake up call to stop buying all of our stuff like medicines and surgical gloves from the Chinese, just because they are cheaper. Next time could be far worse.

      1. I think the thought isn’t that they are a disease vector, but that when crucial medical supplies all come from one place you don’t have an ability to guarantee supply in a crisis there or a crisis globally.

        1. Ah, I see. I haven’t heard anything about there being a shortage of surgical gloves, just masks — and that’s as much thanks to people buying them all up as interruptions to the supply chain in China.

          Also, this thing is going to be worldwide soon enough, so really the best advice is “have a lot of stock on hand so hospitals don’t run short in an emergency.”

    1. “Contrary to popular belief Coronavirus is not Resident Evil or the Walking Dead”

      “…I am 100% certain that Chinese-made surgical gloves are not a disease vector…”

      Hah. That’s just what THEY want you to believe…

  4. Figures on the season that the Astros will be booed to high heaven that Chinese Super Pneumonia will potentially have em playing to empty stadiums…..

  5. I would like to see the stadiums disinfected after each game. It only makes sense to scrub the places down to prevent infections spreading, yes? Of course that would cost the owners money, so ………..

    1. Viruses don’t survive long on open surfaces in sunlight. Indoor wrenas might want to regularly disinfect handrests, at least, and certainly other surfaces like concessions counters, restrooms, etc.

      If people start staying home out of virus fears, sports team owners may start doing some of this stuff, if only as good PR to get people to leave the house again. So much of this comes down to whether people in charge of venues are more afraid of losing money from losing business, or losing money from liability if somebody sues because they got sick…

      1. The Dallas Cowboys and the Texas Rangers are going to ask the taxpayers for funding for outdoor alternative stadiums, to use in times of pandemics.

        Of course they could share one, but would that be up to today’s standards? You don’t want them to move to outdoor stadiums in another city do you? San Diego has one.

        1. Dallas Cowboys. NYET. Ford Center at the Star will do just nicely.


          Texas Rangers? I hear the call of the “AlamoDome.”


  6. The reaction to the (latest) coronavirus certainly looks like something close to a panic. Irrational hoarding, uncoordinated responses, ignoring the scientific consensus, putting an entire country on lockdown, and the continuing social project to breed superbugs through the massive use of sanitizers.

    On the other hand, imposing travel restrictions, banning large gatherings, isolation of known and suspected vectors (patients), and public awareness campaigns are excellent strategies to arrest an outbreak.

    As usual, I have strong feelings on both sides of the issue.

    1. What’s the difference between “putting an entire country on lockdown” and “imposing travel restrictions”?

      1. I’m in Florida, and just last week my boss told me not to fly to Colorado for a conference. But the government hasn’t told me I can’t travel.

    2. Good thing the absolute stupidest people on Earth are in charge of the response in the US. Mike Pence’s usual “pray away the gay” and “pretend HIV doesn’t exist” strategies aren’t gonna cut it.

  7. I hate to be an optimist (going the other direction tends to be so much more accurate where the human race is concerned…), but at least some sports leagues are considering the relative merits of whatever action they might take.

    Banning spectators at live matches might mean more crowding into pubs, bars and apartments/flats – in which the risk of transmission is an order of magnitude greater than at a stadium. If what you want is to manage overall public risk, sometimes doing the obvious (closing the doors to spectators at outdoor arenas) can have unintended consequences that are worse than the ones you are trying to prevent.

    Patience and reasoned response are what is required. More people die of flu every year than have ever died from coronavirus, SARS or the effects of radiation exposure.

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