Would You Go?

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There has been a lot of conjecture, speculation and debate over the last few days of when and if sports should come back and how it will look on the front-end. Last Thursday, the President unveiled a three-phased plan to re-open the country, with Phase One including sports venues. Earlier last week, Dr. Anthony Fauci said that he thought the only way sports could come back this summer was if there were no fans.

That could work for some sports more than others. If the NBA wanted to try and salvage some type of season by the end of June, it would be a tough sell. The close contact between players and the cross-contamination of body fluids, including saliva, would most-likely make it a deal killer that soon – even with no fans in the stands.

Golf could pull it off, and so could tennis. Social distancing could be practiced in both sports and they could play without fans in the gallery or stands.

I’m thinking that racing could operate as well. The driver is isolated as long as he or she is in the cockpit, but the teams pose a different threat. Those that go over the wall can’t really practice social distancing, but they are usually in protective gear. Those on the pit stand sit side by side and the pit reporters have to get in close proximity to interview them due to the noise involved.

I would think that any races run early on that had no fans in the stands, would still require testing to make sure all team members were negative for COVID-19.

The NTT IndyCar Series is now scheduled to run their first race on June 6 at Texas Motor Speedway (TMS). While there is more rhetoric geared toward slowly getting back to work in May, I’m not sure that includes sports in the first week in June.

There is another hitch; even if the IndyCar opener was given the green light to run with no fans, TMS track president Eddie Gossage has said he has no interest in running the IndyCar race at Texas with no fans. He could do that with a NASCAR race, given the nature of tracks getting a cut of the NASCAR TV contract money, but with IndyCar – he has to pay IndyCar a sanctioning fee and recoup that and make money through ticket sales and concessions.

Some have misinterpreted the statement by Gossage as total arrogance. Now I don’t think for a moment that Eddie Gossage is above being arrogant, but in this case – I agree with him. I don’t pretend to know how much the sanctioning fee any given track pays to host an IndyCar race, I can’t really guess – but for easy math, let’s say it’s in the range of about $1 million; maybe more, maybe less. If he can’t sell tickets to anyone, he obviously can’t sell burgers and drinks to anyone either. How exactly is he going to offset that sanctioning fee? Some people tend to forget that racing is a business above anything else. If Gossage can’t make his books balance; he can’t be expected to take a loss, just for the good of the sport.

Assuming that the next month shows vast improvement with this pandemic (and I realize that’s a big assumption for some people, but just hear me out), and IndyCar is given the go-ahead to run the race so long as it is without fans – it still may not race under the current contract. Either IndyCar would have to make some major modifications to the financial structure or the race may not happen.

There is the slight possibility that social distancing could be practiced in the stands, but it would have to be strictly enforced.

At first I was thinking that they could sell every third ticket. As much grandstand room as there is at Texas, they could sell every third ticket to everyone that went to last year’s race and there would still be plenty of room for people to spread out.

Then I got to thinking that if you can verify that multiple people come from the same household, it would be OK for four of them to sit together. But what if those people sell their tickets to two couples? Then you would have strangers sitting next to each other, and then you’ve got a potential problem. So, it’s probably best to sell every third ticket regardless of how many from one household are there. If they don’t like the idea of not sitting next to their spouse or sibling, they can stay home and watch it on television. It’s not like there’s a lot of conversation going on in a race anyway. If they have to communicate while the race is going on – they can text each other.

But what about trips to the rest rooms? Should there be concessions? If so, how would that work? These scenarios and questions don’t pertain just to Texas, IndyCar or motorsports; they’ll apply to any sporting event that is among the first held as the country tries to go back to normalcy.

But the biggest question I’ve saved for last. It’s the same question every sport faces, whenever they attempt to resume sporting events…If they hold the Texas race on it’s original date of June 6 and they allow fans to attend by selling every third ticket and with social distancing guidelines in place, would you even go if you had the opportunity to?

George Phillips

12 Responses to “Would You Go?”

  1. This is a real problem for the future. From my point of view, travelling from the UK, I’m interested in how I will be able to get back to the USA. Even if our and the US governments relax travel restrictions, travel insurance will have conditions. Vaccination certificates? No-one is going to travel, particularly to the US, without medical insurance and if it does not cover COVID who will risk $1m [or whatever] for 10 days on a ventilator? We cancelled this year’s trip and without insurance I don’t see coming over in the near future. 2022 maybe and even then we would have to have insurance. Without this being solved, I think the US tourist business will keel over in my opinion. Discuss? Stay safe folks…

  2. If you’re TMS, you would almost have to sell everything GA or just by section, tell people to sit apart, and let ushers sort it out. Even then,

    My guess is that the Texas race gets moved to the rescheduled NASCAR cup date.

  3. S0CSeven Says:

    If you’re at a road course event (without an assigned seat) you can sort of self isolate on the hills. Street and ovals …… I dunno ….

  4. Jeff Petersen Says:

    If I’m IMS, I would be thinking about laying in a 350,000+ supply of face masks for August. Might be the only way to get approval to run the event is if every spectator has a mask on. Fun in August, of course not. But I’d rather wear a mask and be at the 500 that not have one at all.

  5. billytheskink Says:

    I have the opportunity to go to Texas on its original date (or most any date, really) and I would strongly consider it. It is one of my favorite activities every year and it would be hard for me to miss it. I’ll sit far far away from folks, I’ll wear a mask, I’ll get my temperature taken at the gate, whatever. That said, I expect it to be rescheduled.

    I think the only way any Indycar race runs without fans is if Indycar basically rents a track and said track doesn’t really have another opportunity to hold a race with fans. Because it isn’t just tickets and concessions that Texas and other tracks need to justify their sanctioning fee payment, they need suites and hospitality, sponsorships and signage, and merchandise and activation spots sold too.

  6. This was an outstanding post, George. I’m still surprised at the poll results but only time will tell how all of this plays out. It seemingly changes every day.

  7. well, “stuffing” brings up online voting,
    because of a November
    possibility.
    anyway, no.
    i would not go in June.

  8. I don’t even want to go to the doctor’s office let alone go to IMS with 300,000 people. I’d hate to have no fans in the stands tho.

  9. Mark Wick Says:

    I voted other because I will never allow myself to be vaccinated again for anything.
    And no racing series should be considering racing before next fall, at the earliest. Just one team and all the equipment traveling from one community to another could be transmitting the virus on all kinds of surfaces, both to and from. Until scientists have a firm understanding of this virus, how it travels, and under what circumstances, travel for anything needs to be carefully considered and restricted.
    It will be at least fall of 2021 before I will be going to any event of any kind, and maybe not until 2022.
    I understand the economic ramifications. I also understand the economic ramifications of so many dead or permanently incapacitated, there are few people left to participate or pay for entertainment.
    I really miss performing with the two city bands and community orchestra to which I belong, but I am not going to sit in rooms with 30-50 other people who are forcefully exhaling for two hours.

  10. Tim Nothhelfer Says:

    I wanted to go to the opener at St Pete.
    My concern would be for the potential of any injured driver that would require hospitalization. Not really a good time for that.

  11. James T Suel Says:

    If they race ,I will be there!!

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