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Thursday, August 6, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports

A Grip on Sports: The new-look for Joe Albi Stadium moves forward while virus numbers don’t, putting a question mark on school sports’ return

JOE ALBI STADIUM REPLACEMENT  (ALSC Architects)
JOE ALBI STADIUM REPLACEMENT (ALSC Architects)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Sure, the crystal ball is cloudy, but today seems like a good day to look ahead. After all, what else is there to do on a Tuesday?

•••••••

• Like the all-seeing eye from Mordor, we gaze northward this morning, stopping in the northwest part of Spokane. Specifically, we are focused on Albi Stadium.

Yes, the old fella is still there, nestled among the pines. But not for long. Tomorrow night the Spokane Schools’ Board of Directors will be shown ALSC Architects’ preliminary vision of the new $31 million stadium. And, if the drawings are anything close to reality, the makeover would seem to be worthy of a high-priced Hollywood plastic surgeon.

(Before we get to far into this and you decide I’m being a hypocrite, remember this simple fact: I’ve felt for a long time Albi’s current iteration had outlived its usefulness. It was time for a new stadium. Where that new stadium should be located is what I’ve been railing about for a couple years. Now back to the news at hand.)

The S-R’s Jim Allen has a story today about the stadium’s not-too-distant future. What he passes along is nothing less than a start-of-the-art model of a high school multi-use sports facility, with modern amenities and what looks to be an opportunity for continued improvement over the years.

That’s great. So are all the little touches, like a spot on the southwest corner for food trucks if need be. Or the way the entrance can light up with home team’s colors. The new locker rooms should be nice, but a couple more would make it easier on those doubleheader nights when four teams uses the facility. You know, no waiting. And the scoreboard, at least in the drawings supplied by the architectural firm, seems a bit undersized, but that might not be a problem in reality.

All of it looks good. Some may question if it is $31 million good, but that’s for the stewards of our money, the board, to decide.

There is still that one little problem, however. One that is hard to let go. The location. No matter how nice the new stadium is, it is still tucked into an out-of-the-way corner of the community, one with less-than-optimal access. If only all the amenities envisioned here were in a more centrally located spot. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Yes, it would.

• Will the old stadium be hosting fans and games this fall? That seems a bit murkier. Mainly because the outlook for our community’s control of the novel coronavirus outbreak is getting murkier by the day.

Washington nipped the first wave of the virus’ spread in the bud. It took a lot of hard work and boring days at home, but it worked. Then the governor’s office allowed everyone a little more leeway. What was it our moms used to say, give someone an inch and they’ll take a mile?

It’s not as if the governor’s mandates, backed by the force of law, aren’t clear. In the state’s Phase 2, gatherings are still limited, including five or less non-family members in indoor settings. And social distancing rules are part of the guidelines, including space and the wearing of masks.

But folks in Spokane County, according to Spokane County Health Officer Dr. Bob Lutz, have played fast and loose with the Phase 2 easing of rules. That has delayed the area’s advancement into the more-open confines of Phase 3. And may, if things don’t improve, force us into tighter restrictions for the foreseeable future.

What does this have to do with sports?

Simple. For organized competition to occur, the area’s restrictions must loosen. And for that to happen, the numbers must fall, not rise as is the case recently.

Over at Gonzaga University, the basketball players are trying to work on their game. Jim Meehan talked with athletic director Mike Roth yesterday and details what is going on the players’ voluntary workouts. There’s nothing fancy. Lots of individual work under strict guidelines. No interaction with other players. Social distancing with the trainers running the workouts. In essence, no competition, other than the one high-level athletes have every day with their selves.

Why? Well, the rules, the NCAA’s and the state’s, demand it. Mainly because gyms are a great incubator for spreading the disease.

As Arielle Dreher wrote in today’s story concerning Spokane County’s battle with the virus, “Indoor settings, like restaurants and taverns where people can stay for longer periods of time, as well as work settings where employees must be in close proximity to one another create opportunities for the virus to spread if appropriate precautions are not taken.”

Gyms fit this description well, which is why places like the YMCA are keeping numbers low, using reservations and limits to follow mandates and to help its patrons stay safe. It will be a while before there should be a pickup basketball game at the local Y.

If you are wondering why, well there is this from the same story: “Twenty- and thirty-somethings make up the highest concentration of case counts in Spokane County.”

All signs point to COVID-19 not discriminating by age. Sure, healthy, younger people have a better chance of suffering less-severe symptoms – the case with most diseases – but they are not immune. And they are not immune to the worst aspects of the disease. They want to play, sure. But putting young people in a crowded gym and having them play five-on-five basketball or wrestling or volleyball or whatever is not only illegal and dangerous, it also not helping the area recover enough to move forward as a group.

What’s more important, your neighbor’s business opening back up so they can put food on their table, or your daughter’s club basketball team’s trophy case? If you don’t think these things are related, then you haven’t been paying attention to the numbers. And the risk.

You want to do your part for high school and college sports to return? Don’t push the envelope. Be patient. Be safe. Follow the guidelines and rules developed by people such as Lutz, people who have spent their life preparing for such contingencies.

In the long run, everyone wins.

•••

Gonzaga: As we mentioned, Jim has a story today on the Zags getting back to work. Talking with one of the staff members over the weekend, their attention to detail concerning the virus was impressive. They understand the risk. And want to keep it at bay as much as possible. … Another Gonzaga pitcher signed another professional baseball contract. And with the same organization. Dave Nichols has this story on Nick Trogrlic-Iverson’s signing with the Cardinals. … Elsewhere in the WCC, a former BYU player is still playing overseas.

WSU: Around the Pac-12 and college sports, the NCAA has been sued in federal court over the name, image and likeness issue. A basketball player from Oregon and a swimmer from Arizona State are the lead plaintiffs in the class-action. … Former Washington star Kelsey Plum is not going to be playing in the WNBA this season. … It’s always fun to look back at fun games. … Oregon State welcomed back athletes this week, hoping testing will be done in time for a Thursday start to workouts. However, one athlete has already tested positive. … Colorado is also welcoming athletes back. … An Oregon State star pitcher is coming back to school. … Both Gach, one of Utah’s best players last season, is transferring to Minnesota. … The Utes, who have their athletes back on campus, also gave a release to one of their top recruits. He is expected to end up at BYU. … UCLA and USC, located in one of the nation’s coronavirus hotbeds these days, have yet to allow athletes back for workouts.

Idaho: Our friend Dennis Patchin, the voice of Vandal football, joined Larry Weir for the latest Press Box pod. If you miss the now-departed Patchin and Lukens show, this is the next best thing.

Preps: As we said, the preliminary drawings for the new Albi Stadium are out. Jim Allen’s story goes into the details.

Youth: We rarely have stories about athletes as young as Tommy Elliot. But Ryan Collingwood has one today. It’s not only about a football-related award, but academics are a part of it as well.

Mariners: So will there be baseball this season? Maybe not. Heck, probably not. The two sides seem to be moving farther apart. My guess? There won’t be baseball. The money issue may be overcome by the owners imposing their will, but the coronavirus issue is not as easy to control.

•••       

• Today was a soapbox day. That is all. Until later …

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