Sports can still save America

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I try not to watch the news these days. It’s too depressing.

But Sunday, I saw a report out of Chicago where testing for the coronavirus was being staged outside the United Center. The reported accurately said that normally there would be Bulls and Blackhawks games going on. Now, people are being swabbed and medical supplies are being collected to help the hospitals fight the war, much the way our grandparents and great grandparents donated metal, aluminum and rubber to help the effort during World War II.

It got me thinking about a crisis more recent than World War II. Remember after 9/11 how New York’s sports facilities were used as staging areas for the first responders? Shea Stadium was a depository for equipment and supplies. Across the Hudson River in New Jersey, Giants Stadium served a similar purpose.

Of course, none of us could forget the heartbreaking scene that was the Superdome in New Orleans during and after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. And as chaotic as that was, imagine how many more would have died had the Dome not been available to provide some form of shelter for those who are unable or unwilling to evacuate?

Once again, New York’s sports facilities are being pressed into service. Only this time, it’s happening all over the country as state and local officials try to come up with a plan to collect, then distribute, the supplies needed by health officials and hospitals.

Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens is going to be used as a field hospital to help ease the burden on hospitals in the borough which are being overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients. Madison Square Garden is offering to open its doors to assist the city.

In Los Angeles, the area at Dodger Stadium in Elysian Park is being used as a drive-through test area for coronavirus.

And here in Las Vegas, Cashman Field, home of the Lights FC soccer team and former home of the city’s Triple-A baseball team, is providing shelter for the homeless after Catholic Charities was forced to close its doors in order to maintain proper social distancing.

Of course, not everything goes smoothly. In Florida, at Hard Rock Stadium where Super Bowl LIV was just contested less than two months ago, people who were tested early last week had to come back and be re-tested because the initial testing kits were flawed. Many of those were health care workers who are on the front lines fighting the virus.

Oops.

Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, which will host next year’s Super Bowl, assuming there is one, is also being used to test. But the number of tests available there are limited.

In Maryland, FedEx Field, home of the Washington Redskins, is being used as a test site for COVID-19 for citizens of Prince George’s County.

As more and more communities become affected by the coronavirus, you’re going to see stadiums, arenas and racetracks pressed into service. Those facilities will play a vital role in helping us survive the pandemic as well as recovering once the danger finally passes. Many are currently going unused, especially the NFL stadiums and college football stadiums.

Ironically, there are stadium and arena projects all over the country that are trying to get completed but have been hit by the coronavirus as workers have tested positive. Both Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas and SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles have had workers infected. Yet, construction continues on those NFL facilities, which are scheduled to open late this summer.

Back in New York, construction on the Islanders’ new arena has been temporarily halted. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has been a huge backer of the Belmont Park arena for the Isles, has bigger issues right now and he didn’t need to add to the ranks of tens of thousands of New Yorkers who have contracted the virus. So he ordered construction on the project shut down until things get under control.

Some of these ballparks and arenas were paid for with public money. Ultimately, their use to aid the community and the health officials during these troubled times will wind up being money well spent.

Of course, teams and individual athletes are playing their part. Whether it is donating money to help arena and stadium employees who are unable to work with sports being shut down or individuals make large donations to help their cities get much needed medical supplies to relive the health workers, we’re seeing what happens when we all come together. It’s truly inspiring and let’s hope we see more of this in the days, weeks and perhaps months ahead.

About the Author

Steve Carp

Steve Carp is a six-time Nevada Sportswriter of the Year. A 30-year veteran of the Las Vegas sports journalism scene, he covered the Vegas Golden Knights for the Las Vegas Review-Journal from 2015-2018.

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