Has the threat of coronavirus affected fan attendance at sporting events?
The COVID-19 outbreak affecting western Washington has been the main topic of news over the past week, with a seemingly endless stream of case-count updates and recommended practices.
But how is it affecting sports fan behavior?
We at The Herald’s sports department have been smack in the middle of the sporting response, and different organizations have taken different actions with regards to coronavirus.
At the high school level, the state basketball tournaments went on as scheduled last week. There were no interruptions in response to coronavirus, and the days I was at the Tacoma Dome there didn’t seem to be a noticeable dropoff in attendance, though that’s difficult to gauge.
The Northwest Athletic Conference, which was scheduled to hold its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments at Everett Community College, postponed the tournaments after an Everett CC student tested positive for COVID-19. NWAC is currently in the process of trying to find new dates and alternative locations for the tournaments.
The WHL went on with its games as scheduled, with the Everett Silvertips hosting games at Angel of the Winds Arena on both Friday and Saturday, then playing a game in Kent on Sunday. The official attendance counts at the games were normal, including a sellout crowd of 8,249 for Saturday night’s game against the Seattle Thunderbirds. But Tips beat writer Josh Horton told me there were unfilled seats at Everett’s home games, so not everyone who bought a ticket decided to show up.
Major League Baseball hasn’t taken any action yet, but questions are now being asked about whether the Seattle Mariners’ season opener on March 26 at T-Mobile Park may be affected.
And although there was no interruption of the high school state basketball tournament, precautions are being taken that affect high school spring sports. The Northshore School District has closed for up to 14 days, the Edmonds School District canceled sporting events through April 12, while the Marysville and Stanwood Camano School Districts have also canceled games.
Which makes me curious. Are fans behaving differently because of coronavirus? Are substantial numbers of people choosing not to attend games out of precaution? Or are the vast majority of sports fans still choosing to enjoy their sports?
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