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News >  Spokane

Conventions, sporting events in Spokane, proceeding despite coronavirus outbreak

March 4, 2020 Updated Wed., March 4, 2020 at 9:24 p.m.

The Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena is seen from the air Tuesday, Mar. 11, 2014. The Spokane Public Facilities District continues to host events, including the upcoming NCAA men’s basketball tournament games, despite growing concerns about the coronavirus outbreak. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
The Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena is seen from the air Tuesday, Mar. 11, 2014. The Spokane Public Facilities District continues to host events, including the upcoming NCAA men’s basketball tournament games, despite growing concerns about the coronavirus outbreak. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Visitors to major gatherings at the Spokane Convention Center and sporting events at the Spokane Arena can expect to find additional hand-sanitizer stations and more aggressive cleaning of restrooms, but all events are proceeding as scheduled as reaction grows to the coronavirus outbreak.

Stephanie Curran, CEO of the Spokane Public Facilities District, said she’s been in daily contact with sports, health and elected officials as she fields calls from people about everything from the ongoing State B tournament to the upcoming NCAA men’s basketball tournament games scheduled for March 19-21 at the Spokane Arena.

“We are business as usual until we are directed otherwise,” Curran said. “We have not heard anything from the NCAA. As far as we know, it’s still a go.”

Donald Remy, the NCAA’s chief operating officer, issued a statement Tuesday saying, “We are planning to conduct our championship as planned, however, we are evaluating the COVID-19 situation daily and will make decisions accordingly.”

Also on Tuesday, Chicago State University canceled a men’s basketball game against Seattle University in the Emerald City over virus outbreak concerns. On Wednesday, the University of Missouri-Kansas City also announced it would not play its road game this week at Seattle University.

The NCAA women’s basketball tournament starts March 20 at campus sites, with games potentially in Spokane with No. 12 Gonzaga.

Earlier this week Remy told Bloomberg that the NCAA may consider holding games in empty arenas, which is how the Italian government has reacted with sporting events there.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for many of these student-athletes,” Remy told Bloomberg. “As we’re thinking about these circumstance, we’re thinking about how to preserve that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and at the same time how to make sure that any decision we make is grounded in medical science.”

Curran, of the Spokane Public Facilities District, said other than the beefed up cleaning and sanitizer stations, nobody has canceled events at the Spokane Arena.

“There is another side of it. People have jobs. I don’t want to overreact and put people out of work unless the health department thinks we should,” she said. “We are monitoring it. We are really waiting for direction from the health department or the city or any government agency. They are the ones who know the facts.”

Elsewhere, events are continuing at the Spokane Convention Center, said Kate Hudson, spokeswoman for Visit Spokane.

“None of the conferences scheduled for this month have pulled out, so that is positive,” Hudson said. “Attendance, so far, has been fine.”

Some of those planning to attend a square dancing convention scheduled for June have canceled reservations, but those were the only cancellations as of Wednesday, she said.

“Tourism and conventions are huge part of the economy in Spokane. It’s a $1.3 billion industry. It’s important,” she said. “I’m glad people are still showing up.”

All 15 events at the convention center in March are domestic events, meaning few if any visitors are coming from abroad. “I think people are still feeling safe enough to travel to Spokane,” she said.

Erin Gurtel, the director of the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center, said her venue is just kicking into high gear. She, too, has not received any cancellations.

“We are in our big event season right now,” Gurtel said. “We are taking it day by day, but we are moving forward with our plans.”

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