Empty stadiums. No cheering. No popcorn. No hot dogs.
It’s been a different looking sports season thanks to the coronavirus, and many places are anxiously awaiting fans to return this season as restrictions are lifted.
Much like everything else, the Scranton Wilkes-Barre RailRiders’ season looks different. The season started on the road in early May in Syracuse after being bumped ahead by Major
“It’s going to be different,” said Adam Marco, director of communications. “During the last year, I’ve watched plenty of sporting events on TV and I think minor leagues teams will pull a lot from what we are seeing around the globe.”
PNC Field can operate at half-capacity, according to state guidelines.
“But with social distancing and six-feet still in effect, that limits the capacity even more,” he said. “We might be a 10,000 seat stadium and with half that we are at 5,000, but with the regulations we won’t see that many fans.”
Masks will have to be worn by ballpark patrons.
“It’s out of respect for the players and fans,” he said. “We want to make sure everyone is safe.”
Marco said the entire stadium will be cashless.
“We might have a few speed bumps, but everything has growing pains,” he said. “I think fans are anxious to be back in the stadium and to enjoy a game in-person.”
Marco said the entire plan will be re-evaluated as the season progresses as the state allows more to open and more capacities to be lifted.
The Peter J. McGovern Little League Baseball Museum in South Williamsport welcomes about 25,000 guests per year, according to Kevin Fountain, the museum’s spokesman, with most coming between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
The museum has been closed since last year when the state ordered such attractions shut down. A recent announcement on their Facebook page said the museum would be closed ‘a bit longer.’ So far, an opening date has yet to be announced.
“Since its inception in the late 1980s, the primary purpose of the museum has been to celebrate the Little League experience and accomplishments of our alumni, not as a revenue driver for the organization,” said Fountain. “Therefore, the museum’s closure throughout the pandemic has had little to no impact to Little League International’s financial operations. As we prepare to reopen the World of Little League in the coming months, our focus is on the health and well-being of our employees and visitors, and we look forward to being able to showcase our museum’s offerings through a safe and enjoyable experience to our community and the general public.”
In addition, for the first time in its 73-year history, Little League Baseball canceled its international tournament in South Williamsport. The Grand Slam Parade was canceled. Hotels were empty. Shops and restaurants were vacant. An announcement is expected in May as to its future for 2021.
The annual tournament has an economic impact of around $40 million, according to Jason Fink, president and CEO of the Lycoming County Chamber of Commerce.
“It’s like most large-scale events, it’s not just the venue it’s all of the ancillary stuff,” he said. “It’s the restaurants, shops, hotels and gas stations.”
And like baseball, the Pocono Raceway is expected to have more fans in the stands as restrictions are lifted and more people are vaccinated. The Long Pond track will host four races this summer, including a NASCAR double header.
According to the Pocono Mountain Visitors Bureau, the Pocono Raceway has an annual economic impact of $250 million.
With fewer fans this past year, it’s meant a slowdown for businesses who rely on race fans at the Tricky Triangle to spend money.
“We miss seeing all of the fans here,” said Kathy Newbury co-owner of Pocono Originals, a craft and gift shop that sells handmade plaques, wooden flags, and homemade candles.
Newbury said events at the racetrack bring a lot of tourists. During the past year, they’ve been absent.
“People that were driving by, wouldn’t be driving by,” she said. “We picked this location in large part because of the raceway and because we’d have a lot of traffic. It’s been a negative impact for us. It’s a great community connected place and it was sad to see everything shut down.”
Newbury is hoping for a better year in 2021 with more fans back at the track and more people milling around.
“It might not look like what it used to look like, at least for this year, but it will be good to see at least some people back,” she said.