Puget Sound Sporting Events Affected by Ban on Large Gatherings

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Governor Jay Inslee announced on Wednesday a restriction on events of more than 250 people in King, Snohomish and Pierce Counties in an attempt to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Inslee said the instruction will remain in place at least until the end of March, but could be extended. The ban includes sporting events, and will affect the Seattle Mariners' opening homestand scheduled to run from March 26 to April 1.

The Mariners released a statement saying they are working with Major League Baseball Office of the Commissioner on alternative plans for games that were scheduled for March. Those plans could reportedly include staying in Arizona, traveling to Texas and Minnesota instead or playing in front of an empty stadium.

Season ticket holders, suite holders and group buyers will automatically receive credit for tickets to unplayed games by March 19. Single-game ticket holders who purchased through the Mariners will be automatically refunded. Additional details will be communicated by March 14.

If the Rangers don't want to make the trip to Seattle, it would likely mean playing that series in Texas or in Arizona if MLB keeps spring training facilities open. For now, MLB signed a joint statement with MLS, the NBA and the NHL that temporarily limits locker room and clubhouse access to players and essential staff.

More Seattle impact

At least three NFL teams -- the Philadelphia Eagles, New Orleans Saints and Pittsburgh Steelers -- have reportedly pulled their scouts off the road and they aren't attending college pro days for prospects.

The University of Washington spring football game is currently scheduled for April 25 and could be affected by the restrictions if they are extended into next month.

The UW softball team is scheduled for a home game against the U.S. national team on Thursday night before playing a home series against Utah from March 13-15. The baseball team doesn't have another home game until March 17 against Gonzaga, but then has three more home games scheduled against Arizona from March 20-22. The men's and women's tennis teams won't play their respective matches this weekend as both of their opponents made the decision not to travel to Seattle.

The Seattle Sounders' home match against FC Dallas on March 21 has been postponed, the team announced Wednesday. Details about rescheduling will be announced at a later date. The Sounders don't have another home match scheduled until April 18.

The Seattle Dragons XFL team will host the LA Wildcats on Sunday as scheduled, but the game will take place at CenturyLink Field without fans in the stands. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN2.

Tacoma teams respond

The Tacoma Defiance will play Wednesday's scheduled match at Cheney Stadium against San Diego Loyal SC behind closed doors, per a release.

The Tacoma Rainers will be working with the Pacific Coast League to determine any flexibility within the schedule should the shutdown continue into the regular season, which is scheduled to open on April 9 at Cheney Stadium.

"Our hope is to play our entire Rainiers home season as scheduled and we are excited to open the gates to Cheney Stadium without health concerns as soon as possible," Tacoma Rainiers President Aaron Artman said a statement.

The Tacoma Stars are moving Friday's game vs. the San Diego Sockers from the Showare Center to the Tacoma Soccer Center.

At the high school level

As of now, local high school schools are being cautious about COVID-19, but for the most part, athletics are still going on as scheduled as long as schools remain open, with local school districts making individual decisions on the best course of action. Tacoma Public Schools said athletics are continuing as scheduled.

"All athletic practices and games will continue as scheduled," the TPS site says. "If your school or the competing school is closed for a health department investigation all before- and after-school activities including athletics are canceled."

If a school is closed, WIAA has given a blanket waiver to 17.12.11 practice accommodations -- This allows schools to practice 7 days a week, twice a day with a break, or on a game day, and they will count toward your 10 practice requirements."

Wilson High School was one school among the three Tacoma Public Schools closed on Monday, along with Sheridan and Lowell elementary schools. All after-school activities, including athletics, are currently cancelled for those schools.

Other local school districts are also monitoring the coronavirus situation closely and have been in regular contact with the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department. Decisions to close schools or keep them open are made by individual school districts.

Restrictions extend nationally

Outside of the Seattle area, ESPN has reported potential changes to the NBA schedule that may include empty arena games or games in cities that have not yet been affected by COVID-19.

There is limited news on MLB spring training, major conference tournaments in college basketball and MLS. The Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas will continue as planned with only teams and essential personnel allowed in locker rooms.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine issued a similar ban on mass gatherings in Ohio on Wednesday and said the NCAA Tournament First Four in Dayton and the first and second round games in Cleveland next week will be played without fans. As of now, the Ohio sites are the only NCAA Tournament locations affected. The Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena is set to host first and second round games next week.

The Ivy League, MAC, and Big West Tournaments have all either been canceled or will be played behind closed doors. The College Basketball Invitational will not be held in 2020. In the NBA, the Golden State Warriors will play their game against the Brooklyn Nets at the Chase Center on Thursday night behind closed doors.

The Ivy League Presidents announced a unanimous decision to cancel all spring athletics practice and competition for the remainder of the academic year.

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