Florida: the Summer Training home for … sports?
Gov. Ron DeSantis did all but roll out logo-ed carpets for teams to come to Florida at a press conference this week. This came after plans had been discussed for the NBA to send teams to Las Vegas and Orlando’s ESPN Wide World of Sports at Disney to finish their season and for Major League Soccer to play out their whole schedule in Orlando — all in empty arenas, fields or stadiums. The ESPN facility has 17 fields, so it could accommodate multiple MLS teams. The Orlando City Lions already train at Osceola Heritage Park in Kissimmee, and have been holding individual player workouts once the league allowed them starting last week.
“If you’re in a place where they won’t let you operate, we’ll find a place for you (in Florida),” DeSantis said at a press conference Wednesday. “We know we can find a place and a way to do it safely.”
DeSantis has already allowed World Wrestling Entertainment hold shows in an empty studio in Orlando, and UFC 249 went off in Jacksonville last weekend with coronavirus testing, fan-free arena, social distancing, and self-isolation. The UFC created a 25-page document to address health and safety protocols, which included disinfecting the octagon between bouts and mandating tests and masks for nearly everyone in attendance. And a fighter, Jacare Souza, and two of his cornermen tested positive for COVID-19 the day before the card; that bout was eliminated and the event went on as scheduled. They held another card on Wednesday.
“I knew we could do this,” UFC President Dana White said following UFC 249 on Saturday night. “I knew we could figure it out. Even with all the hurdles that we had early on, this has been fun.”
Other pro leagues like the NBA, MLS, NASCAR (which gets back to racing in Darlington, S.C. on Sunday) have been eyeing how UFC pulled off its event Saturday. There will be made-for-TV pro golf events the next two Sundays from Juno Beach and Hobe Sound before the PGA Tour returns to action in Texas June 11-14 at a highly protocol-ed tournament with testing and quarantining players.