Sounders FC majority owner Adrian Hanauer has heard all of the extreme and fantastical plans professional sports leagues and fans have sketched trying to resume or debut a season during the global coronavirus pandemic.
Here’s another: Testing everyone prior to entering a stadium to watch a game or match.
“That’s not too crazy to imagine,” Hanauer said in a phone conversation Tuesday while quarantined in his Seattle home with his partner and their son, Leo. “There’s equipment and you have to be able to run people through fast enough. But we as a society, we’re going to have to be open to things like that – having our temperature taken when we go into a building, an airport or maybe a sports arena. That is the kind of thing that has to be explored and could be part of the equation for a couple of years.”
It’s been one month since Major League Soccer suspended its season after two games to help slow the spread of coronavirus. Teams, many located in states or counties under stay-at-home mandates, remain banned from training or using their facilities beyond physical therapy through at least April 24, but more likely until the virus is under control.
Hanauer, whose club won the 2019 MLS Cup, said all ideas are being considered by MLS owners in order to resume play. The original target was May 10 with a possible championship in December, but that will surely be pushed back.
The positive is MLS isn’t close to the point where it needs to outright cancel the 2020 season in order to plan for next year. And owners, according to Hanauer, are being flexible in finding solutions to salvage pieces of its 25th season.
MLS commissioner Don Garber was among the professional sports leaders who took part in a conference call with President Trump last week to discuss the national response to the pandemic. Trump also expressed his want for leagues to return to play by late summer, according to USA Today.
The Sounders franchise was valued at $405 million by Forbes magazine in November 2019. The team’s primary source of revenue comes from game days, which draw an average of 40,000 fans and generate $1 million in operating income in 2018, according to the magazine’s analysis. MLS generated $800 million in revenue overall that season.
But money comes second to health concerns during a pandemic.
“It’s possible things won’t be back to normal until we have a vaccine,” Hanauer said. “Thankfully we live in a part of the world where some of the best science is being done. That’s kind of cool and a source of pride that we have so much innovation in this region. Hopefully that innovation will lead to solutions for this horrible disease. And I don’t doubt that innovation in terms of what sport looks like in the future might come out of this region as well.”
Hanauer and his family didn’t attend the Sounders’ final match March 7. Following the club’s MLS opener on March 1 at CenturyLink Field, he and Leo woke with a fever and cough. Seattle was in the early stages of grasping the severity of the virus, but Hanauer and his family self-quarantined and reached out to a friend, who as part of Gates Ventures — an investment arm of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates — was in the process of morphing the Seattle Flu Study initiative into the Seattle Coronavirus Assessment Network.
Hanauer tested negative for the virus, but didn’t receive results until last week because of changes in the crossover. A Sounders employee who worked the March 7 match and didn’t have contact with the general public did test positive.
Washington had 8,682 confirmed coronavirus cases and 394 deaths as of Monday, according to the state’s department of health.
“To me, until we have significant amounts of fast testing that is not bypassing those people who really need the fast testing, I don’t see a path to having sport,” Hanauer said. “With that said, 90 days ago it took five days to get a test result. Now we have the technology to do it in five minutes. Who knows, it could be 30 seconds in another 60 days. That’s the amazing part about the innovations that are coming.
“It’s too early to make any conclusions. But, obviously, safety to players, coaches, staff, fans, even media is going to be of utmost importance. Otherwise no one is going to show up.”