Could the NFL turn to a Vegas bubble to save the upcoming 2020 season?
After seeing the contrast between the success of the NBA’s Orlando bubble and the turmoil of MLB’s attempt to return to business as usual, should the NFL attempt to organize a Vegas bubble?
Almost immediately after the clock struck midnight and we bid farewell to 2019, 2020 has been a bust of JaMarcus Russell-esque proportions. From the sports world to society in general, good news has been hard to come by.
After the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation or suspension of various sports seasons and events across the globe, many were wondering what course of action would need to be taken in order to resume competition, while also ensuring the safety of the players, staff and their families.
As with many issues lately, the NBA took the lead.
Back in May, the idea of a “bubble city” was first proposed, with the top two preferred destinations given as ESPN’s World Wide of Sports at the Walt Disney World complex in Orlando and a host of MGM Resorts properties on the Las Vegas Strip.
As we know, Orlando won out and is now one full week into the NBA regular season restart, after several exhibition scrimmages the week prior. While it is still early, the experiment seems to be off to a great start.
Earlier in the week, the league reported a third straight week of no new COVID-19 cases within the bubble.
Taking a similar approach, the NHL also resumed their season last week in the Canadian province of Ontario, with Edmonton and Toronto serving as its two hub cities. They reported no COVID-19 cases in their first week of play.
Both these leagues took a controlled approach in order to minimize the exposure of players and team personnel. The flip side of the coin would be the dumpster fire that has been the MLB season.
After contentious negotiations between the league and the MLBPA, the two sides reached an agreement in late June to play a truncated 60 game season. Unlike the NBA and NHL, MLB was insistent on teams playing games in their home cities.
The results have been mixed, and we have already seen game cancellations due to several COVID-19 outbreaks. These issues have necessitated further negotiations and changes to the protocols that were agreed to just over a month ago.
With NFL training camps now underway, we have seen 69 players opt-out of the 2020 season, while others such as Cleveland Browns receiver Odell Beckham opine that the season should be canceled.
This doesn’t exactly scream confidence in the NFL’s plan. The league is leaving it up to each franchise to decide whether or not they will have fans in attendance at their games, increasing the chances for exposure for all involved.
Perhaps the NFL could turn to a Vegas bubble to save the upcoming season.
With Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis stating that the team would play its inaugural season in Sin City with no fans in attendance, it was surely another blow to Las Vegas tourism.
Vegas has seen significant losses during the pandemic and was likely hoping for hoards of fans during football season to fall back on.
One way to alleviate the concerns of NFL players and simultaneously aid Las Vegas would be to take the NBA’s plan B and make it their plan A.
Mandalay Bay and Luxor, two of the proposed properties in the NBA plan, are less than a mile away from Allegiant Stadium, making for a very short bus ride.
Mandalay Bay alone has enough rooms to accommodate players, staff, and any immediate family that they wish to bring with them. It sits far on the south end of The Strip and is harder to access, thus providing a buffer from larger crowds and foot traffic you would see at other properties.
This plan would also provide the NFL an opportunity to showcase the city of Las Vegas, as they had planned to during this year’s draft, as well as the Raiders’ new state-of-the-art home.