In a concrete sign that COVID-19 is injecting chaos into the summer stadium operations of an NFL team, Stan Kroenke’s gargantuan SoFi Stadium has punted the late July opening that was built around pop star Taylor Swift.
SoFi Stadium made the announcement Friday, erasing the July 25 opening and pushing the first scheduled event to an Aug. 1 Kenny Chesney country music concert. The cancellation cited “ongoing concerns surrounding COVID-19,” which have become a hot-button issue around the continued work on SoFi during a stay-at-home order from California Gov. Gavin Newsom. A league source tied to stadium operations told Yahoo Sports on Friday that the Swift cancellation “won’t be the last” summer event spiked from an NFL venue, adding that “concerts will be the first” entertainment to spell out whether the 2020 kickoff will be delayed.
“The horizon of it — July is going to tell us what we need to know,” the source said. “A lot of June is dropping off the calendar [for stadium operations]. But July is that line of resistance. That’s what you kind of watch. Everyone knows when the end of July is getting bumped, August is next and that’s basically the start of the season. If you’re canceling things in August, you’re not having fans in stadiums in August. And then maybe you’re not doing anything at all in August.”
The source said that despite the presentation of business as usual, the NFL’s league office has begun planning conference calls with team owners following the draft to discuss more detailed contingency plans for the 2020 season. The source said the NFL will “soon” begin parsing through scenarios that would be guided by information from health and safety officials, while also weighing the difficulties presented in the face of states that are expected to have different coronavirus measures in place.
Until then, the cancellation of the Swift stop in Los Angeles is the first major signal flare to the rest of the league — given that it involves one of the NFL’s richest owners in Kroenke, and one of the NFL’s two “showcase” stadiums (along with the Las Vegas Raiders’ Allegiant Stadium) in the 2020 season. COVID-19 is already disrupting the debut of the league’s most expensive stadium project in history, while simultaneously threatening to force the Raiders to consider other venues for the 2020 season.
“A Taylor Swift concert in L.A. [to open SoFi] is a bigger deal — way bigger — than any [NFL] game we’ll play in August or into the start of September,” the source said. “It’s a big deal.”
So what’s next? The source pointed to the next wave of potential July cancellations or postponements that will follow the Swift news in the coming weeks. They could include multiple summer “tentpole” events, such as the July 4 “D.C. Jam” concert at the Washington Redskins’ FedEx Field, the July 18 Guns N’ Roses concert at the New York Giants and Jets’ MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, and the July 31 Promise Keepers conference at the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium.
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