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Arizona, Florida, Japan? 2020 MLB season scenarios abound

Major League BaseballWe’re seeing so many ideas floating around regarding the 2020 MLB season: Arizona and Florida spring-training ballparks, home MLB ballparks at the end of the season, and even a season start in Japan. All of this highlights one thing: we’re still in the ideas stage of planning.

That MLB wants to start the 2020 season ASAP is not exactly a secret: with potentially a $4 billion loss due to a shutdown, getting back in action for some sorely needed revenue is a priority. Add to this the hundreds and hundreds of MLB team employees working at home and coming up with their own scenarios for the season. Finding out exactly what’s happening in the commissioner’s office is sometimes a little difficult to discern. So, we’ll begin with this: it’s clear that MLB is swimming with ideas, not plans on how to launch and sustain the 2020 season. Here are the various ideas floated in the last few weeks:

And now we are back where we started, with ESPN’s Jeff Passan saying that insiders are telling him MLB is back to the original idea of playing all MLB games at Arizona spring-training camps, college facilities and Chase Field. Florida is out of the mix, according to Passan, and the plan is to start the season in Arizona and end in MLB ballparks this fall:

“When it’s all said and done, it seems like it’s going to be Arizona or bust for Major League Baseball,” Passan said. “It may have to get to the point where they say to themselves, OK, this is what we are going to try to do even if we can’t ultimately pull it off.

“But here’s the hope,” Passan continued. “The hope is that this starts off as a biosphere and eventually we get to the point in this country, through testing and through antibody testing and through understanding a little better what the coronavirus exactly is, that they can move beyond this biosphere and go back to their cities. And even though they will probably be playing in empty stadiums for the rest of the year, the idea is that this would be a two or maybe three month thing as opposed to a four or five or six month thing that encapsulates the entire season. Of course there is the possibility that this turns into that, but idealistically they want to spend as little time as they can in Arizona.”

Playing in empty ballparks is likely, as California Gov. Gavin Newsom once again warned he did not expect public gatherings through the summer: “Based on current guidelines and expectations, Newsom said the prospect of mass gatherings was ‘negligible’ at best. Large scale events that bring in hundreds, thousands and tens of thousands of strangers are not in the cards even into the summer months of June, July and August.”

In the end, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred broke through most of the talk about the 2020 MLB season and said that what were being discussed were contingencies, not plans, per the Tamps Bay Times:

“’Plans’ may be too strong a word … Ideas may be a better word,” he said. “All of them are designed to address limitations that may exist when businesses restart. Travel limitations, limitations on mass gatherings that may still exist, and we’ve thought about ways to try to make baseball available to all the fans across the United States in the face of those restrictions.

“So from our perspective we don’t have a plan, we have lots of ideas. What ideas come to fruition will depend on what the restrictions are, what the public health situation is. But we are intent on the idea of trying to make baseball part of the recovery, the economic recovery and sort of a milestone on the return to normalcy.”

With daily news about the spread of the coronavirus impacting the sports-business and facilities industries, it’s more important than ever to stay up with the latest news in the venues industry. That’s why we launched a Venues Digest newsletter focusing on coronavirus information across the ballparks, arenas, stadiums, theater and performing-arts worlds. For now it will appear daily, and for now it will be free of charge to industry professionals. Sign up here.

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