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West Coast League pushes opener to July; five teams to skip season

Victoria HarbourCats

The summer-collegiate West Coast League is pushing its season opener from June to July, with five teams dropping from the schedule because of state and provincial stay-at-home rules.

We previously reported that the Bellingham Bells would not be participating in league action in 2020, with the Portland Pickles planning on play with no fans in the stands after Oregon Gov. Kate Brown shut down all large gatherings of crowds through September, including sporting events. Today it was announced that the Bend Elks, Corvallis Knights, Kelowna Falcons and Victoria HarbourCats would likely suspend play for the season as well, leaving the league at seven teams. From the league’s statement: “While the existing constraints make it clear that 2020 will not look like a traditional West Coast League season, all of our teams—whether playing this season or not—remain committed to bringing baseball to our loyal fans, both this summer and in 2021. To that end, we look forward to working together as a league, and also with local authorities and stakeholders, toward finding creative solutions for the many challenges our teams face. Each city and team have specific constraints, and interested parties may obtain information regarding games, players, coaches, host families, and other information on those teams’ websites.”

“The HarbourCats look forward to a strong return in 2021, when we anticipate being joined on Vancouver Island by the expansion Nanaimo franchise, due to be officially named this summer,” said a press release issued by the HarbourCats, who sent along the photo at the top of this page.

“Nothing is more important to our club than the health and safety of our fans, players, coaches, umpires and staff,” says Falcons General Manager Mark Nonis in a press statement.  “Despite the improvements we’ve heard in BC from health officials, we don’t anticipate a return to play until late summer or sometime in the fall.  Plus most of our road games take place in the United States and without any ability to really predict when it will be safe and responsible to return or watch, a number of teams have made the difficult decision to cancel season.  We would like to thank our fans and corporate partners that purchased tickets and sponsorship packages for this season.”

“It’s obviously a big blow to the league,” WCL Commissioner Rob Neyer said in a press statement. “But we know Kelowna will be back in 2021, so we’re considering this just a brief pause in the Falcons’ wonderful history, with better things to come.”

The Yakima Valley Pippins plan on playing the 2020 season, but Pippins general manager Jeff Garretson said the experience will be changed because of social distancing.

“This certainly will not be the experience we’ve seen over the past six years,” Garretson said. “We will have limited seating available to maintain social distancing practices, for example. We’ll likely be moving to a cashless experience onsite for ticket sales, merchandise sales and concessions. We’ll utilize a new concessions app to order and pay online to limit lines. We’re working through all those scenarios and will work with Yakima County and the Health Department to provide a safe family-friendly experience when the time is right.”

The Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League, New York Collegiate Baseball LeagueNew England Collegiate Baseball League, Cape Cod League and the Valley Baseball League have all canceled the 2020 season. The Expedition LeagueWestern Canadian Baseball LeagueProspect LeagueCoastal Plain LeagueNorthwoods League, Futures Collegiate Baseball League and the Texas Collegiate League have announced delays to the 2020 summer-collegiate season.

Individual teams are also facing issues: the Duluth Huskies (Northwoods League) and the Lafayette Aviators (Prospect League) can’t play home games before July 1, while the Bellingham Bells will not participate in the 2020 West Coast League season. All in all, summer-collegiate leagues across the board are grappling with the potential of shortened seasons, extended seasons into the fall and teams facing serious revenue shortfalls.

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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