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Northwoods League to launch regional play, conforming with local guidelines

Bismarck LarksThe 2020 Northwoods League season won’t begin on a league-wide basis, with three Bismarck teams launching play on June 15 at Bismarck Municipal Stadium, as the summer-collegiate league adjusts to a patchwork of local COVID-19 restrictions across its footprint.

The Bismarck Larks, the Bismarck Bull Moose and the Bismarck Flickertails will all play out of Bismarck Municipal Stadium on a 72-game schedule, with each team guaranteed 48 games. The Flickertails roster will be made up of players committed to the Thunder Bay Border Cats, whose 2020 season was shut down because of travel restrictions to Ontario, Canada, while the Bull Moose roster will feature players who had committed to summer leagues that subsequently shut down for 2020. The season will begin once the State of North Dakota moves to the Low Risk phase described in the ND Smart Restart guidelines. During the early games attendance will be limited to 250 fans per game, though that number could rise depending on how coronavirus testing goes.

“Working in consultation with the North Dakota Department of Health, Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health, and the Bismarck Parks and Recreation District, the Bismarck Larks have fashioned a careful and thorough ‘Larks Smart Start Plan’ in order to create an environment where the fans, players, and personnel at Bismarck Municipal Ballpark can return knowing the place where they are gathering has been subjected to a rigorous process with their safety as the primary concern,” said Northwoods League President and Commissioner Gary Hoover via press release. “The League is mindful that a special relationship has been established between the Larks and the greater Bismarck community, and each step in this process has been taken in a way that respects, and hopefully reflects, that special relationship.”

Right now play could commence in much, but not all of Wisconsin, with Minnesota and Michigan retaining more stringent pandemic mitigation strategies. A press release from the Northwoods League says that when it becomes possible in each sub-region of the Northwoods League for play to safely commence, and the teams within each area develop a comprehensive safety plan for their ballpark, the League will adopt a similar “pod” approach to schedule games within each sub-region so that fans in those communities can comfortably return to their ballparks as well.

The Great Lakes Summer Collegiate LeaguePerfect Game Collegiate Baseball League, New York Collegiate Baseball League, Ohio Valley LeagueNew England Collegiate Baseball League, Cape Cod League and the Valley Baseball League have canceled the 2020 season. The Expedition LeagueWestern Canadian Baseball LeagueProspect LeagueCoastal Plain LeagueFutures Collegiate Baseball League, West Coast League and the Texas Collegiate League have announced delays to the 2020 summer-collegiate season. We expect these leagues to announce their 2020 plans between now and June 3.

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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