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By Sherri Middleton, Executive Editor
We are now living during times of uncertainty with concern for our health, family, finances, employment and we are all wondering when life will return to normal.
During the past few weeks I’ve been asked the question by many people: “How are you doing in this crazy world?” It’s something I was already thinking about and the sentiment is apparently one asked by many people these days.
How do you respond when you’re asked how you’re doing?
The answer is different for all of us I presume.
In the sports events and tourism industry, I hear a lot of heavy sighs and almost a struggle to answer and sometimes a chuckle that tells me that they know we are all in this together.
We don’t really know how we’re doing because we don’t know when life will return to normal. There is also that nagging feeling that things may never return to what we know as our former normal.
Even though we have no clear indication of when social distancing, quarantine and the threat of the spread of this virus will end, I am seeing some positive signs from sports and tourism.
First let me say that travel, tourism and sports were leading drivers of the economy in the near past and will hopefully continue to spur growth across the country when we can travel again.
The tourism industry stepped up immediately as cancellations and postponement of events was announced. Convention Centers and other venues across the country began donating food to help during these challenging times. With events cancelled and fresh produce or prepared meals already waiting, it’s good to know food did not go to waste.
Then convention centers and DMOs began launching resources to help their communities. Many of those same organizations began sharing virtual experiences through videos offering those who were locked down in their homes a way to visit the experiences online.
Around the same time, sports events planners and rights holders shifted their schedules and many of those leaders looked for creative ways to keep athletes engaged and healthy and sought ways to remain engaged until sports participation returns. Virtual coaching, mental health resources for Olympic athletes, support sites, esports and even recommended sports movies began popping up as a way to keep sports front and center.
And sports venues continued to offer a hand. The Raleigh Convention Center and Centerplate donated 800 ready-meals to local organizations in North Carolina. The Orange County Convention Center provided pre-packaged meals to its full-time employees who were impacted by the state of events in the country. OCCC also offered its parking lot as a temporary drive-through COVID-19 testing.
The Colorado Convention Center in Denver donated three pallets of food to We Don’t Waste.
In Dallas, the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center donated food to local homeless and the City of Dallas Emergency Management Office.
McCormick Place in Chicago is also working with the Army Corps of Engineers to convert the convention center into a temporary hospital that should be available by April 24 and in Oregon, Portland’s Oregon Convention Center began providing shelter for 140 homeless people who showed no signs of the illness.
An iRacing simulator race featured former NFL stars in a Madden tournament and drew 903,000 viewers and many other Esports competitions are popping up to fill the void with a lack of televised sporting events taking place.
The thinking is that Esports – once thought to be a questionable sport with no foothold on traditional sporting events – may now grow more rapidly than expected. Virtual sporting which can be done remotely is also becoming an attractive money-maker for destinations facing the reality of lost revenue from hosting events or courting travelers during this time of the pandemic.
I also think now is the time that park and recreation departments across the country will look for ways to rebuild local programming to serve their communities. What else can park and recreation employees do after the fields are mowed and maintenance is complete, except for meetings and conversations about how to rebound?
We all miss many things when we are isolated, and everything is put on hold. Many of us miss dining out or meeting friends after work. Others miss traveling and seeing new places. But almost everyone I know says they miss sports the most. There are no current sports on television. No 2020 Olympics. No Wimbledon. No basketball, baseball or soccer. No after school or Saturday morning practices. This year we witnessed the lack of March Madness and other NCAA events. No students on college campuses. No plans for the upcoming college football season. It is a crazy new world, isn’t it?
Sports bring people together. Sports gives us a common goal. We cheer for our teams. We argue about which team is better. We place friendly wagers and we travel to watch our favorite teams play. We can’t live without sports.
Think of all the children you know who are now homebound. Soccer tournaments are cancelled. The lacrosse season is cancelled. Swimming stops. Pickup games of baseball and basketball are over. It’s not just the events and revenue associated with sports – it’s the playtime, the exercise, the discipline of competing and being part of a team and it’s the social isolation so important to the development for all of us as we age and grow into adults.
Sports will be back because we need sports in our lives.
Feel free to contact me at [email protected] to let me know how you or your organization is changing the game. We all need to offer support and share our ideas.
Also, please take the time to respond to our planner survey about COVID-19 if you are a sports events planner, rights holder or otherwise involved in youth or amateur sports. https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/COVID-19andtheSportsEventsIndustry