Coronavirus outbreak forces Seattle-area sports to postpone or play without fans

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Gov. Jay Inslee announced Wednesday the state of Washington will implement new community strategies and social distancing plans to minimize exposure of COVID-19. 

Events taking place in King, Snohomish, and Pierce counties with more than 250 people, including sporting events, will now be prohibited by the state. The newest measure will restrict sports gatherings for the rest of March.

Following Inslee's ban on large group events, Seattle-area sports teams announced changes to their games. The Seattle Dragons will play without fans at CenturyLink Field, while the Seattle Sounders have moved an upcoming match on March 21. 

Here's a look at how the latest restrictions will impact the area's teams: 

Mariners on the move 

The Seattle Mariners, who were set to begin the 2020 MLB season with a seven-game homestand against the Texas Rangers, are working with the league to move the opening series. They will move March home games to another location, yet to be determined. Reports circulated that the Mariners could play games in Arizona, but this has yet to be confirmed by the league. 

"While we hope to be back to playing baseball in Seattle as soon as possible, the health and safety of our community is the most important consideration."

Dragons to play without fans

The league announced Wednesday that Sunday's game between the Seattle Dragons and Los Angeles Wildcats will be played without fans in the building. This is a huge loss for the XFL, as the Dragons have attracted crowds of 20,000-plus in each of their two home games. 

"Based on the proclamation issues Wednesday by Washington Governor Jay Inslee, the Seattle Dragons will host the LA Wildcats this Sunday, as scheduled," XFL president and COO Jeffrey Pollack said in a statement. "The game will take place at 4 p.m. PT at CenturyLink Field without fans in the venue. The game will be broadcast live, also as scheduled, on ESPN2."

The Dragons said the team will issue refunds to single-game ticket holders, and season ticket holders will be offered refunds or credit toward a future Dragons' game during the 2021 XFL season. 

Sounders game postponed

The Seattle Sounders have made a decision to postpone their match on March 21 against FC Dallas at CenturyLink Field. The Sounders have said the club will continue consistent dialogue with leadership, health officials and MLS, and as more information becomes available, they will share with the public. 

"Throughout this process, Sounders FC has stated that nothing is more important than public safety and the wellbeing of our fans. With that in mind, we respect the difficult decision that has been made today, and our club will continue following the guidelines set forth by our public health authorities and government agencies."

Defiance to play behind closed doors

The Tacoma Defiance will play their second match of the season against the San Diego Loyal squad at Cheney Stadium, however the game will be closed to the public. 

"With San Diego Loyal's squad already in town to play the contest, we have been in touch with the United Soccer League, regional government agencies and health authorities about the best path forward. Because Cheney Stadium will be closed to the public, it has been deemed safe to proceed with Tacoma Defiance's second match of the season."

Seawolves await decision 

The Seattle Seawolves professional rugby team says two of their upcoming matches will be affected: March 21, 2010 against the Houston Sabercats and March 29, 2020 against the Colorado Raptors. Both games were scheduled to take place at Starfire Stadium in Tukwila. 

The team has said it is working with Major League Rugby to create an action plan for the affected matches and will provide updates when plans are confirmed. 

"While this decision comes at time of global unease, the health and safety of our fans, players, and the entire Seawolves organization is our number one priority."

Rainiers home opener could be impacted

The Tacoma Rainers, Triple-A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners, announced Wednesday that it will continue working with the Pacific Coast League to determine flexibility within the schedule, should a shutdown continue past the March deadline. The Rainiers schedule is expected to begin on April 9 at Cheney Stadium. 

The team says ticket buyers will not be charged for any game that is not played at Cheney Stadium, nor any games that will be closed to the public. 

"Our hope is to play our entire Rainiers home season as scheduled and we are excited to open the gates to Cheney Stadium without health concerns as soon as possible," Rainiers president Aaron Artman said in a statement. 

At this time, Washington's coronavirus death total is at 26. The new statewide case number, as reported by the Department of Health, and local health districts is 284. 

Coronavirus outbreak forces Seattle-area sports to postpone or play without fans originally appeared on NBC Sports Northwest