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Tampa Bay Area Events Will Go On Despite Coronavirus Concerns

Billboard and parking garage of Raymond James Stadium
Carl Lisciandrello
WUSF Public Media
Raymond James Stadium in Tampa will host WrestleMania 36 April 5. Despite the increasing number of coronavirus cases in Florida, major sporting events are still going on as scheduled.

With 18 cases confirmed in Florida, COVID-19 is beginning to impact major events statewide. Miami cancelled the Ultra Music Festival in response and other large gatherings are also being scrapped.

The Florida House and Senate are working on a new budget that addresses the long term effects of the virus on state tourism. But so far, large public events in Tampa are going on as scheduled.

March Madness begins next week as Tampa hosts first and second-round games for the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship. The games are scheduled for March 19 and 21 at Amalie Arena.

The NCAA COVID-19 Advisory Panel published a statement Friday saying that though they recognize “the fluidity of COVID-19” and its impact, the games are still on.

“The panel members believe that we need to better understand COVID-19 while continuing to work with local, state and federal health authorities such as the CDC,” the panel’s statement reads. “The key is for all stakeholders and athletes to practice risk mitigation at all events.  At present, the panel is not recommending cancellation or public spacing of athletic and related events scheduled to occur in public spaces across the United States.”

Multiple sporting events have been canceled throughout North America in response to the virus including the International Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship in Canada and the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament in Indian Wells, California. Other large gatherings such as the SXSW Festival in Austin have also been cancelled.


READ MORE: Coronavirus Coverage On WUSF

But in Tampa, the Gasparilla Music Festival took place in Curtis Hixon Park this past weekend.

The Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is still going on as scheduled this Friday through Sunday. Officials told The Tampa Bay Times that they “don’t expect any disruptions to the event schedule.”

“We are also working closely with the City of St. Petersburg and all racing series to ensure the well-being of our spectators, volunteers, employees and event participants with next weekend’s Grand Prix of St. Petersburg,” organizers said in a statement. “We are asking everyone associated with the event to follow basic hygiene precautions as recommended by the CDC, such as frequent hand-washing, use of hand sanitizer and covering coughs and sneezes appropriately.”

Looking beyond the Grand Prix and next week’s NCAA games, fans and organizers of WrestleMania 36 are keeping a close eye on developments.

“We continue to monitor the situation alongside local, state and federal agencies in addition to our partners at the NCAA and WWE,” said Rob Higgins, Executive Director of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission. “We remain focused on being nimble throughout the remainder of the planning processes as well as preparing diligently to make sure each of these events is a big success.”

Thousands of people are expected to travel to Tampa from around the world for WrestleMania 36, which will take place Sunday, April 5 at Raymond James Stadium. The WWE released a statement addressing the situation.

“The health and safety of our fans, performers and employees are our top priorities and we are monitoring the situation closely with our partners and government officials in Tampa Bay,” said WWE. “We remain committed to hosting WrestleMania at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday, April 5, and like other entertainment properties in the U.S., there are currently no plans to cancel or postpone our upcoming events.”

Vanessa Henry is a WUSF/USF Zimmerman School digital news intern for spring 2020.