Future of stadium sports remains uncertain

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Wikimedia CC: Terry Foote

Target field was packed with fans in 2016.

Henry Burkhardt, RubicOnline

The coronavirus pandemic has affected nearly every sector of life as we know it and sports and the sports industry is not exempt.

Sophomore Jack Bogdan went into more depth about how the stadium closures are affecting fans.

“I’m upset the sports are cancelled, especially the NBA because the playoffs were supposed to start last week. The playoffs are always an exciting time even if your team isn’t in,” Bodgan said.

While it’s too early to predict with certainty what will happen in the future, the world of sports will see long lasting impacts from the pandemic.

For starters, stadium sports have an obvious weakness to a pandemic of any kind. Many people crowded together in tight spaces, touching many surfaces provides all the factors needed for widespread community transmission of a disease to spread. This has presented huge challenges to the sports industry during the pandemic. All major sporting venues have had to close, and major sporting events (including the 2020 Olympics) have been cancelled or indefinitely postponed. This has caused huge losses in revenue in the industry.

Another area of the economy tied to sports is the hospitality industry. With almost all games and events canceled, businesses who get many customers coming from games or rent rooms to people going to see games have suffered as well.

Lastly, a main source of income for many has to do with media reporting on games. Whether this is streaming live game coverage or creating highlight reels, media production makes up a significant amount of sports team’s income.

With the emergence of the pandemic, almost all sports have been forced to focus almost exclusively on their media production; it is the only side of their business that stands a chance at turning a profit in the current situation.

Predictions can be hard to make on the spot in times like these, but there are a few possible likely outcomes. One is that the culture of stadium sports (going to a stadium to watch a game) will be forever upended. Similar to how we may not shake hands after the pandemic has passed, people may not want to return to the community transmission center that is a sports game.

This leads to the next outcome, which is that game coverage will be moved totally online, and that the only way to watch games will be at home. While culture will be changed in a disappointing way for those who love going to watch a game live, one of the benefits to this possible change will be more affordable pricing for sports streaming services. If franchises like ESPN and NBC Sports are forced to move coverage online, they will also be forced to provide economic pricing in order to stay in business.

It was definitely the right call cancelling everything. I just hope everything can start again soon.”

— Jack Bodgan

While most things are up in the air when it comes to stadium sports, there are a few certainties to expect in Minnesota sports. As is the case with many other teams, the Twins are considering playing games in an empty arena, streaming the games live. Although he is optimistic about the baseball season continuing in some form this year, Twins manager Dave St. Peter remains wary.

“There’s really no playbook for [pandemics] in sports,” St. Peter said in an interview with CBS.

The future of sports in the coming year is uncertain, but many teams plan to continue playing as soon as possible, even if it’s in an empty stadium.

Bogdan commented again on the cultural changes in stadium sports, commending them for cooperating with the government and ending games in the interest of public health.

“It was definitely the right call cancelling everything,” Bodgan said, “I just hope everything can start again soon.”

Terry Foote’s image of Target Field can be found here