DILLON — From internationally-acclaimed endurance events to community cycling series and town recreation leagues, the sports scene across Summit County is full of uncertainty as the calendar approaches May.
At Thursday’s Summit County Board of Health virtual meeting, county officials, including county commissioners, mulled over how restrictions due to the novel coronavirus pandemic could limit — or eliminate — officially-sanctioned sports.
As the officials chatted about the governor’s regulation to limit groups of 10 or more, commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence said she’d heard from local soccer and baseball groups wondering how that would impact them.
County Manager Scott Vargo said he wasn’t sure how regulations could work with youth soccer teams where the entire group is like “one amoeba running around the field together, all within six feet of each other.”
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Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier pondered if something like a frisbee game, where people are far away from each other, could still be problematic considering different people all touch the same item.
“I know we are currently looking at that with staff what might be possible to start allowing for rec leagues and so forth, but they are considered high-risk transmission,” Summit County Public Health Director Amy Wineland said.
Despite that discussion at the governmental level, local sport organizers are going ahead with planning in case they are able to host events and leagues. Last week, Vince Hutton, Breckenridge Recreation Sports and Special Events Director, said Breckenridge Recreation was considering if and how to conduct its camps and leagues safely.
Jeff Westcott, co-founder and sole proprietor of Maverick Sports Promotions, said he’s waiting until Sunday’s anticipated message from Gov. Jared Polis before taking more definitive action on plans for his annual summer Summit Mountain Challenge community mountain biking series.
Westcott added that he doesn’t anticipate being able to host any events in June, meaning the first two events of the Summit Mountain Challenge, the Frisco Roundup and the Gold Run Rush, would either have to be canceled or rescheduled. Westcott said he was wary of a potential rescheduling spree leading to a compression effect.
“I think there’s a certain amount of ethical responsibility to answering the following question: at what point is it better to just cancel?” Westcott said.
Both Hutton and Westcott said that smaller, local-based community events like theirs may be easier to put on. Westcott is planning eat the lost revenue from canceled events such as the Imperial Challenge winter triathlon and Five Peaks ski mountaineering race while managing expenses until more direction from government becomes available.
For events like the Imperial, he said he’d be able to weather the storm because expenses like athlete gifts could be held over to next year — though he lost money on expenses paid before the shutdown.
Westcott has also applied for the government’s Paycheck Protection Program — which he didn’t receive on the first round — and COVID-19 small business loans.
“My business definitely met all the criteria for which to ask for support,” Westcott said.
In Copper Mountain, Adaptive Action Sports was one sports nonprofit that received several thousand dollars in a small business loans, according to Executive Director Daniel Gale.
Westcott’s fellow co-founder of Maverick Sports, Mike McCormack, he said the internationally-renowned multi-day mountain bike race also applied for economic disaster relief and is waiting to hear back.
“Figuring out if you get that or not is a needle hidden in a woods in an alternate planet in another universe,” McCormack said.
McCormack said, as of now, the Breck Epic, which is hosted annually in August, is still being planned as “business as usual,” though he recognizes at some point he may have to pump the brakes.
This week McCormack sent out an email to the event’s hundreds of competitors — which includes a field of one-third international riders and about 12% from Europe — who have been messaging him asking about what may happen.
The Breck Epic is such a big event that planning for the event starts 18 months in advance and a lot has already been accomplished. In a positive sense, that is helping the event to proceed, in a negative sense, that’s expenses already paid for — and possible losses if the event is canceled.
McCormack has extended options for riders to defer and transfer their riding spots to subsequent years amid the pandemic. He’s pushed expenses on labor and insurance to the last minute.
And like Westcott, he will consider saving reusable items for next year’s race if the event is canceled . In such a worst-case scenario, he said the event would survive to see next year despite the fact that his sunk costs are “enormous.” He expects that the financial effect would be spread over multiple years.
“This is not so different than the first one we launched in 2009, and that was right after the global economy tanked in 2008. We just mailed off an enormous check for merchandise, then the economy augured in,” McCormack said. “What we saw then, and what are seeing now, is, people put their recreation and fitness as last thing they’ll sacrifice. …We are being impacted to a great degree. I thought it was going to be horrible, but it’s tolerable — still awful. But we’ll figure it out.”