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Trump: 2020 NFL season should start in September

Allegiant Stadium rendering 2019

Despite warnings from health officials that it’s too early to make such plans, President Donald Trump told sports officials over the weekend that he wanted to see the 2020 NFL season start on time in September.

The Saturday call included the leaders of 12 major sports and limited to professional sports (Breeders’ Cup, IndyCar, LPGA, Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer, NASCAR, NBA, NFL, NHL, PGA Tour, UFC, WNBA and WWE, per a pool report; missing was any rep from the NCAA). Reports center on Trump’s hopes that the NFL season starts on time and a warning that other professional sports may not open again until August or September. He later followed the call with a late-afternoon press conference reiterating his view that the NFL should open on time in September: “I want fans back in the arenas by whenever we’re ready,” Trump said. “As soon as we can, obviously.”

The view is not unanimous. Pouring cold water on Trump’s optimism was Gov. Gavin Newsom, who said he didn’t anticipate pro sports resuming in California by September:

And while the NFL has stuck to a public stance that the 2020 season will go on this fall, the stance has not been absolute. Before the meeting with Trump, for example, NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills said that the season won’t be played if there’s not widespread testing yet implemented. That came after some more optimistic statements from league officials.

In the meantime, the NFL is prepping for a virtual draft on April 23-25, originally scheduled for Las Vegas. A backup plan had a draft held with limited attendance, but the tentative plan now has a remote draft.

Meanwhile, we have seen the coronavirus impact construction of two new NFL stadiums set to open in 2020, SoFi Stadium and Allegiant Stadium. Construction has slowed at SoFi Stadium, but it’s still ongoing, and stadium officials say they plan to be ready for a September opening. But that’s not an absolute, and it sounds like the NFL has a contingency plan should the season open but the stadium is not available. From the Los Angeles Times:

“This is not the time you want to be finishing a stadium, in this environment as you prepare,” [Rams COO] Kevin Demoff said. “Because it’s when you need to be all hands on deck, walking through the building every day, meeting with your staff, working out the kinks and planning for it. So when you’ve been building something for a few years, you would love an optimal environment to finish it.”…

One worker on the Inglewood project has tested positive for coronavirus, and a second was a presumptive positive.

Some workers have expressed concerns to The Times about the project continuing in the midst of the health crisis. A spokesman for the Turner-AECOM Hunt joint venture, which is overseeing construction, said they have taken a variety of steps to keep workers safe, including requiring social distancing, non-essential personnel working from home, and increasing the number of toilets and hand-washing stations.

A worker at Allegiant Stadium, scheduled to open this fall as home of the Las Vegas Raiders and the UNLV football team, did test positive for the COVID-19 virus. Despite new safeguards put in place, Raiders owner Mark Davis says the stadium is set to open this fall as well, and the team has declined an option to play the 2020 season in the Oakland Coliseum. From the Las Vegas Review-Journal:

Construction at Allegiant Stadium has carried on throughout the pandemic. After a walk-through earlier this week, Davis said everything remains on target.

“It’s coming along just fine. We’re on schedule,” Davis said. “Obviously everybody is taking big precautions on health. We are following the rules put in place by the governor and the (health officials). Health and safety is first and foremost and always will be.”

With hourly news about the spread of the coronavirus impacting the sports-business and facilities industries, it’s more important than ever to stay up with the latest news in the venues industry. That’s why we’re launching a new Venues Digest newsletter focusing on coronavirus information across the ballparks, arenas, stadiums, theater and performing-arts worlds. For now it will appear daily, and for now it will be free of charge to industry professionals. Sign up here.

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August Publications