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L.A. pro teams band together to inform county supervisors how games can resume

Bill Shaikin, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Baseball

LOS ANGELES -- With the state poised to authorize the resumption of major sporting events, the teams and venues within Los Angeles County banded together Friday to tell county supervisors precisely how those events could be held safely.

If the county is satisfied with those plans, games without fans could take place as soon as teams are ready to stage them. The Dodgers could be first up, if major league owners and players can agree on a deal for an abbreviated 2020 season starting in early July, and the team could train at Dodger Stadium in June.

For 11 weeks, the coronavirus crisis has unplugged live events. With a proper health and safety protocol, those events can help restore civic spirit and return thousands of Angelenos to their jobs, said Casey Wasserman, chairman of the LA 2028 Olympic organizing committee and leader of the sports and entertainment division of the county's economic resiliency task force.

In seeking to expedite the process, Wasserman submitted a 26-page blueprint to county supervisors with minimum standards teams had agreed to follow in such areas as monitoring the health of athletes and staff, observing social distancing off the field, and keeping facilities sanitary. By the end of the day, he said, each team in town planned to provide a more detailed plan to county public health officials, specific to its respective sport and venue.

"This reopening will put us on a path to putting tens of thousands of County residents back to work and restoring dignity and normalcy to countless lives and livelihoods," Wasserman said in a letter to supervisors. "Greater still, these plans provide the scaffolding to begin to restore the communal and rehabilitative joy generated by the crack of a bat, a sprinting score, and the magic of live music."

Although concert venues would not hold events without spectators, the plan lays out a process that could be expanded when games and shows can again be staged before an audience. The nine pro teams that joined Wasserman in signing Friday's letter: the Chargers, Clippers, Dodgers, Galaxy, Kings, Lakers, Rams, Sparks and LAFC.

"We're going to have the opportunity for the Dodgers to play home games at Dodger Stadium," Wasserman said in a telephone interview. "But, if we don't get this going, they're going to have to play their home games in another state. The Lakers wouldn't be able to practice in L.A. for what is likely going to be a season-ending tournament in Orlando.

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"These things are doable. We have the ability. We have the safety measures. We have the plan. And we have best-in-class operators. It's important that we create these opportunities for the community, for jobs, and for the environment in the county."

 

In a 2019 study commissioned by the Los Angeles Sports Council, the county's economic development corporation estimated that sports teams and events in Los Angeles and Orange counties generated 39,000 jobs and state and local taxes totaling $328 million.

On May 18, Gov. Gavin Newsom said that sporting events "in that first week or so of June, without spectators ... can begin to move forward." He said his office would work with county health officials in ensuring that teams and leagues would agree to "deep conditions, deep modifications, deep stipulations, in terms of protecting not only the players but more broadly their support staff."

County health officials have the final say. In an effort to streamline reopenings, Wasserman presented a baseline reopening plan approved by the nine major pro teams that call the county home and by 13 sports and concert venues, including Dodger Stadium, Staples Center, Rose Bowl, the Coliseum, and the soon-to-open Sofi Stadium. UCLA and USC also agreed to the plan.

The proposed baseline plan was compiled after consultation with teams, all of which have been provided with expert medical advice by their respective leagues. The plan includes such common protocols as daily temperature checks, face masks worn by all personnel except athletes in play, and a ban on outside catering in favor of single-serving, prepackaged foods.

The plan recommends that athletes and training staff be tested for the coronavirus "on a weekly basis, at minimum." It is expected that teams and leagues would include a more frequent testing schedule in their individualized and detailed plans. For instance, the 67-page protocol proposed by Major League Baseball calls for players to be tested several times per week; players have asked for daily testing.

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