With venues being closed and large gatherings being outlawed, it makes sense that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on sports tourism in Mobile.
Despite the rescheduling or cancelling of 21 of the Port City’s biggest events, Danny Corte, executive director of the Mobile Sports Authority (MSA), believes sports tourism can have a resurgence whenever restrictions are lifted.
“Sports tourism was the one segment of tourism that continued to move during the Great Recession,” Corte said. “Once it gets back going and we open back up, sports tourism will lead the way.”
Even when everything is somewhat back to normal, Corte expects to have to make “adjustments” to help comply with social distancing requirements.
“There will be a lot of adjustments, depending on the sport,” he said.
Despite the confidence, Corte has had to postpone or cancel a number of events taking place during a four-month span. The last weekend the MSA had any events was March 7-8, with lacrosse and softball events.
“When everything hit in early to mid-March, we looked at events in March, April, May and June,” he said. “We postponed most and cancelled a few. We still had some scheduled for Memorial Day weekend.”
One of those rescheduled events is a volleyball tournament moved to late May.
“Who knows if that’s going on,” he said.
Summer events are still scheduled, Corde said. Those include the Dauphin Street Vault and a softball tournament in July, as well as the Babe Ruth 16 to 18 World Series in August.
“Right now all of those events are still on,” he said. “Starting Memorial Day, all of our events are still on.”
It’s unclear, Corde said, if any other scheduling adjustments will have to be made this summer.
“We’re in uncharted territory here,” he said. “Things change almost daily.”
Hank Aaron Stadium
The Mobile Sports and Entertainment Group (MSEG) hadn’t been in control of Mobile’s Hank Aaron Stadium for too long before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down entertainment and sports venues. In fact, a planned drive-in theater event was postponed due to the threat from the virus. Despite this, MSEG Vice President of Sales and Marketing John Hilliard was upbeat about the stadium’s future.
“We’ve had some events cancelled but, you know, we’re an event place,” he said. “We had the events planned. They were cancelled, but we’re already planning for next year.”
Hilliard said the group is preparing to make announcements, including some pertaining to possible college tournaments coming to the stadium.
“As soon as everything’s signed off on, it’ll be business as usual,” he said. “You know, it hasn’t really hurt us in any way, except the people coming here to see the events — it’s hurt them because they haven’t been able to play baseball or watch baseball.”
In the meantime, Hilliard said the stadium has been hosting community events, like a food drive from Feeding the Gulf Coast and a drive-in job fair from Express Employment Professionals.
“We’re just doing what we can for the community. Like I said, that’s why we wanted to manage the stadium, you know, to keep it going,” he said.
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