Hobby Events Moving Forward — For Now — Amid COVID-19 Concerns

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While pro sports leagues are shuttering their doors in reaction to the COVID-19 epidemic, the hobby is marching forward with a string of major public events.

“The Expo is on, and I have no intentions of canceling it at this point,” said Steve Menzies, president of the Sportcard and Memorabilia Expo slated for May 1-3 in Toronto.

“Obviously there are lots of questions about this virus and the implications for the Expo and other events,” Menzies added. “There is also a wide range of opinions on what to do, not do. It is my personal opinion that too many are over-reacting but this also must be taken seriously. I have consulted with a number of other stakeholders and health professionals to come up with this measured response.

“The Public Health Agency of Canada has assessed the public health risk associated with COVID-19 as low for Canada for everyday activities, work and public events. Because 90 percent of our attendees are local (zero percent of our attendee base is from overseas), health risks at our events are exceptionally low. For peace of mind, however, we’ve added … health and safety protocols to ensure that attendees enjoy a worry-free event.”

Menzies did, however, suggest that things could change.

“Clearly, this is a fluid situation and one that we continue to monitor,” he said.

This weekend’s Chicago Sports Spectacular, which is taking place at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, is still happening. That said, some of the show’s autograph guests have cancelled. Full refunds will be given to those who pre-purchased autograph tickets. (Update: Following a government order banning events of more than 1,000 people, the Chicago Sports Spectacular was cancelled late Thursday. According to a post on the show’s Facebook page, refunds will be given for all pre-sales.)

Upper Deck spokesman Chris Carlin told Beckett on Wednesday that his company also is moving forward as planned with all public events.

“At this time, Upper Deck still has every intention of being at the Spring Expo, National Sports Collectors Convention, Comic-Con, Gen Con and other planned shows,” he said.

Beckett has reached out to organizers of the National Sports Collectors Convention for comment. The hobby’s biggest annual event is set for Atlantic City from July 29-August 2.

The NBA on Wednesday became the first North American league to suspend its season after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the Coronavirus. On Thursday, Major League Soccer announced it would follow suit.

The NHL and the CHL were set to meet on Thursday to discuss their options in the face of the pandemic. Others sporting bodies are following suit while some are going forward without spectators. MLB is currently ready to open the season as scheduled in a couple of weeks, although some teams will be changing venues and locations due to temporary bans on group gatherings.

Many jurisdictions in the United States have mandated that sporting events, concerts, conferences and other large public gatherings be postponed to help diminish the immediate impact of the highly contagious, and sometimes fatal, virus.

More to come.

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