Seattle Mariners’ Tom Murphy pops out during the fourth inning against the Los Angeles Angels in a spring training baseball game March 10 in Peoria, Arizona. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Seattle Mariners’ Tom Murphy pops out during the fourth inning against the Los Angeles Angels in a spring training baseball game March 10 in Peoria, Arizona. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Seattle’s sports teams forced to alter their schedules

Mariners, Sounders, Dragons and Huskies all forced to make significant changes.

SEATTLE — Several major sporting events in the greater Seattle area are being altered as part of the effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

On Wednesday morning, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee instituted a ban on public gatherings of more than 250 people in Snohomish, King and Pierce counties through at least the end of March. That will affect many of the Seattle area’s major sports teams, including the possibility of the Mariners moving the opening game of their 2020 Major League Baseball season out of Seattle.

“I had a discussion with (Mariners owner) John Stanton the other day, and missing the home opener is a big, big deal to the State of Washington,” Inslee said during a press conference, adding that it was highly likely the ban would be extended beyond the end of March. “But I think he and others understand the importance of health, and I think we’re going to have acceptance of this.”

In addition to the Mariners having to make changes to their season opener, the Seattle Sounders have postponed their next Major League Soccer home game, the XFL’s Seattle Dragons will play their next home game in an empty stadium, and the University of Washington will hold its home sporting events without fans.

The Mariners were scheduled to open the 2020 season at home March 26, hosting the Texas Rangers at T-Mobile Park in the first game of a four-game series. However those games, along with the following three-game home series against the Minnesota Twins, will have to be adjusted.

“Following Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s announcement this morning that he is banning large group events through March, the Seattle Mariners are working with the Major League Baseball Office of the Commissioner on alternative plans for our games that were scheduled for the end of March at T-Mobile Park in Seattle,” the Mariners said in a statement.

“While we hope to be back to playing baseball in Seattle as soon as possible, the health and safety of our community is the most important consideration.

“We will provide more information about our plans for the games as it becomes available.”

Possible alternatives include playing those series in Texas and Minnesota, playing them in Peoria, Arizona, at the team’s spring training complex, or playing at T-Mobile Park without fans.

The Sounders were scheduled to host FC Dallas on March 21 at CenturyLink Field, but that game has been postponed.

“Throughout this process, Sounders FC has stated that nothing is more important than public safety and the well being of our fans,” the Sounders said in a statement. “With that in mind, we respect the difficult decision that has been made today, and our club will continue following the guidelines set forth by our public health authorities and government agencies. We will maintain our consistent dialogue with elected leadership, public health officials and Major League Soccer, and as more information becomes available, the club will continue to provide public updates. This includes details about rescheduling the FC Dallas match for a later date.”

The Sounders’ following home game is scheduled for April 18 against the Vancouver Whitecaps.

The Dragons made the decision to go forward with their next game, which is at 4 p.m. Sunday at CenturyLink Field. However the game will be played before an empty stadium as fans will not be allowed to attend.

“Based on the proclamation issued Wednesday by Washington Governor Jay Inslee, the Seattle Dragons will host the LA Wildcats this Sunday, as scheduled,” XFL president and chief operating officer Jeffrey Pollack said in a statement. “The game will take place at 4 p.m. PT at CenturyLink Field without fans in the venue. The game will be broadcast live, also as scheduled, on ESPN2.”

The Dragons have another home game on March 22 against the New York Guardians. No mention was made of the plans for that game.

The University of Washington has a high-profile event Thursday when its nationally ranked softball team hosts the U.S. Olympic team, and the team opens Pac-12 play against Utah on Friday through Sunday. Those games will take place, but with heavy restrictions on who can attend.

“Effectively immediately, attendance at all home athletic events will be restricted to competing student-athletes, coaches and essential working personnel only, which includes credentialed media members, until further notice,” the school said in a statement. “In addition, student-athletes’ families and recruits will be permitted to attend home events.

“As of now, all scheduled games will proceed as planned in their previously announced location.”

The Huskies’ home tennis matches this weekend — the women were scheduled to host Baylor on Friday and the men were scheduled to host Samford on Saturday — were previously canceled when the visiting teams elected not to travel to Seattle.

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