Coronavirus pandemic

Coronavirus: Sports could return safely on the strip

DeAndre Jordan of the Brooklyn Nets dunking during his team's 104-102 win over the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Centre on March 10, the day before the NBA season was suspended because of the coronavirus crisis.
DeAndre Jordan of the Brooklyn Nets dunking during his team's 104-102 win over the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Centre on March 10, the day before the NBA season was suspended because of the coronavirus crisis. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Self-contained hotels with competition, TV facilities will keep players and officials safe

LOS ANGELES • North American sports leagues, from the National Basketball Association (NBA), the Women's NBA, National Hockey League to Major League Soccer, are desperate for a safe way to start playing games again.

Las Vegas has tens of thousands of empty hotel rooms and a tourism-based economy that has been racked by the coronavirus pandemic.

Could they help solve each other's problems?

MGM Resorts International, the company that has ownership stakes in more than a dozen hotel-casinos in Las Vegas, has pitched an audacious proposal to house athletes and support staff, and hold their stalled seasons on a quarantined block on the Las Vegas Strip.

According to a proposal deck sent to the NBA and the WNBA, which the paper has reviewed, MGM envisions a fully quarantined campus on the city's most famous attraction.

The centrepiece of the proposal to the NBA is the Mandalay Bay resort, which has 4,700 rooms at three connected hotels, and is connected by an enclosed walkway to the Luxor hotel, which is where service staff such as housekeepers and caterers would live.

The athletes would be joined by their families, league and broadcast media employees, as well as the staff and vendors needed to serve them, with access to lounges, spas, restaurants and all other perks, including gambling.

As many as 24 basketball courts could be built at Mandalay's convention centre, which already hosts WNBA team Las Vegas Aces and MGM has also offered the Thomas & Mack Centre, an arena located on the University of Nevada's campus.

While spokesman Scott Ghertner declined to comment, Bill Hornbuckle, the acting chief executive of the conglomerate last week confirmed in an earnings call it was in contact with various sports leagues.

"We have been in an ongoing dialogue with leagues and other sporting activities around televised-only events - boxing, mixed martial arts, NBA, NHL - and we can host some of that," he said.

The leagues have been exploring any number of options for resuming their seasons.

  • 24

  • Basketball courts can be built at the convention centre of MGM's Mandalay Bay resort .

Various media reports have floated other cities and venues like the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida and Atlantic City in New Jersey, and even the states of Hawaii and Arizona and abroad in the Bahamas that can possibly host games in a semi-or fully quarantined environment.

But most league executives have been publicly non-committal about their plans, given that securing a location, while crucial, is only one step towards a possible resumption.

A full health and safety procedure needs to be fully laid out and the list is set to be quite extensive.

According to the proposal, "any person entering the integrated resort would have to go through agreed protocols and they would be required to remain in the integrated resort for the entirety of their stay".

As part of preparations, MGM has hired a health and safety consultant to act as an adviser and said it would secure all necessary medical testing equipment to check for Covid-19.

Everything is, however, still at the planning stage and it does not appear that any of the major leagues is close to announcing a comprehensive plan to return.

Many states remain under stay-at-home orders, and even those that have announced plans to lift them are keeping social distancing measures in place.

Leagues also need to obtain thousands, if not tens of thousands of Covid-19 tests, which are in short supply, and risk backlash if they are using tests while sick people and healthcare workers still struggle to secure them.

MGM's proposal, more than anything, is a sign of the desperate economy in Nevada and the company's struggle to generate any sort of revenue.

Business has been at a standstill since mid-March, when the state government ordered all casinos shuttered, and Las Vegas' economy has taken a battering as it is based upon leisure and hospitality more than any other major American city.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 04, 2020, with the headline 'Sports could return safely on the strip'. Print Edition | Subscribe