When the coronavirus first started wreaking havoc on the world, some professional sports leagues played their games without any fans in the stands to prevent the spread of the deadly disease.
But even when the social-distancing restrictions are lifted and fans are allowed to attend games, some arenas and stadiums may still be near empty.
That according to a recent metropolitan area poll asking fans if they would return to arenas and stadiums. A whopping 72% of the people polled said they would no longer attend games if there was no vaccine for COVID-19, which has claimed the lives of more than 109,000 worldwide, including around 20,000 in New York state.
Those polled included sports fans and non-sports enthusiasts. Still, 61% were sports fans and the results don’t bode well for sports franchises.
Closer to home, some Staten Islanders feel the same about attending professional games in the future.
“I would not feel comfortable sitting in an open-air venue,” said Westerligh resident Martin Holder, who has been a New York Jets season ticket-holder since 1980. He also has a Saturday ticket package to attend New York Yankees games. “I just turned 70. Can’t take that risk.”
Even some younger sports fans said they are skeptical about attending games.
“I think it’s going to be a while before fans will be allowed to go to games,” said Frank Guglielmo, an educator, who coaches girls’ basketball at New Dorp High School. “When I am satisfied that it is safe then I will attend. I’m going to use my judgment based on what I hear about how safe it is to do so.”
Former Monsignor Farrell wrestler Phil Squatrito, now an Island dentist and an assistant wrestling coach at Tottenville HS, says he needs more information to head out to a professional event with thousands of fans.
“I think it depends on how active the virus will be during that timeframe,” he said. “I am hoping by the time the fall rolls around there will not be many cases at all. If it is scarce I would go, but try to keep my distance as best as possible. If it was like today I would not be going for sure. It will definitely take some time for us to get back to the normal times of going to crowded places.”
Dr. Squatrito thinks stadium personnel would have some of their own precautions in place to make for a safer game-day experience.
“The stadiums should monitor their staffs and use masks and gloves for their workers,” said Dr. Squatrito. “Also adding temperature checks for anyone entering the stadium could help. There is also talk of antibody testing being used to help identify those who have recovered from the virus. This will be a huge help as those people could be allowed back to work.”
The former Island wrestling standout says there should be some parameters set for high school sporting events.
“I would only allow one parent/person per athlete and space them out in the stands as best as possible,” said Dr. Squatrito.
Of course, if a vaccine is found that may change the opinion of some in the poll and perhaps more people will want to attend games.
“That would be a game-changer,” said West Brighton resident Thomas Michaels of a vaccine. “Right now, I won’t go to any games, but if there is a vaccine I would have no problem going knowing you can’t catch anything.”