Astros owner Jim Crane on Wednesday cited revenue losses in stating his desire to lure fans to Minute Maid Park for the upcoming MLB season. He made the comments a day after MLB and the MLBPA ended a prolonged standoff by agreeing to health measures that will let commissioner Rob Manfred implement a schedule to start a truncated season in late July.
“That's the plan,” Crane told reporters at a Wednesday news conference. “We still have to go through the player protocol. We're still focused on that.
“I think the intent at some point is to get the fans in the ballpark.”
Why the urgency to get fans in the stands as a COVID-19 outbreak spikes in Texas? Revenue, said Crane, who’s worth an estimated $1.3 billion.
‘Get some people in the building’
Crane cited an estimated $3 billion in losses for MLB during the shutdown while calling for fans to be allowed to attend games amid the pandemic.
“The only thing we have to do that can counter that is to get some people into the building and sell some tickets and some merchandise and some cold beer or whatever they let us have,” Crane said.
‘Massive outbreak’ in Texas
Crane’s announcement arrived the same day that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott acknowledged a “massive outbreak” as the state saw new COVID-19 cases eclipse 5,000 and hospitalizations surpass 4,000 for a second straight day.
In April, Abbott initiated loosened COVID-19 restrictions to restart the state’s economy. On Wednesday, he suggested reimplementing some of those restrictions to maintain hospital space for sick patients.
‘It’s absolutely horrifying’
Dr. Peter Hotez described the situation in Texas to the Chronicle as “horrifying.” Hotez is the dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. The Chronicle touts Hotez as an “internationally-renowned infectious disease expert.” He’s working to develop a vaccine for COVID-19.
“It's absolutely horrifying,” Hotez said. “I'm terribly upset about what I see happening. There were some predictive models out of Pennsylvania that actually showed this. This is why I didn't want Texas to open up as early it did.”
The Astros aren’t the only team looking to gather fans for MLB’s restart.
Will teams across MLB welcome fans?
Miami Mayor Carlos A. Giménez anticipates the Marlins looking to sell tickets. He told Fox Sports’ Andy Slater that the Marlins will be required to submit a plan showing how fans can socially distance, but that he will consider allowing fans in Marlins park as soon as July.
Meanwhile, Florida has seen a similar spike in COVID-19 cases that has prompted New York, New Jersey and Connecticut to require visitors from the state to quarantine for 14 days. Texas is also on New York’s list.
As for the Astros, Crane says there’s not a specific plan in place and that the Astros will work with guidance provided by state and regional leadership. The team sent an email to ticket holders announcing that “it is uncertain if fans will be allowed to attend games this season.”
“We won’t really know until opening day,” Crane told reporters. “We definitely will be talking to the governor, the mayor here and the county judge. We have some time.”
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