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John Reitman

By John Reitman

If the NFL can move its big show at the last second, can everybody?


The GCSAA Conference and Trade Show is scheduled for Feb. 5-10 at the San Diego Convention Center. Photo courtesy of San Diego Convention Center

The GCSAA Conference and Trade Show is not the only mega-event in Southern California in the next few weeks. While the GCSAA show is scheduled for Feb. 5-10 in San Diego, the NFL is tentatively scheduled to bring its circus to Southern California on Feb. 13 when the Super Bowl comes to Los Angeles, or more exactly Inglewood.

You might ask how something as grandiose as the Super Bowl can be "tentatively" scheduled when it is only five weeks out. The answer is because the NFL makes a habit of having a Plan B (or C, D and E) for the Super Bowl in place every year. It's just that the NFL's preparedness plan never has been of public interest - until now.

According to the league office, the NFL is in talks with several teams about stadium availability should spiking Covid numbers and constricting protocols in Los Angeles County threaten the event. 

The NFL deserves credit for doing what is necessary to ensure the world's largest sporting event goes off without a hitch, or at least with as few hitches as possible.

"We plan on playing Super Bowl LVI as scheduled at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles on Sunday, February 13," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in a statement released by the league. "As part of our standard contingency planning process that we conduct for all regular and postseason games, we have contacted several clubs to inquire about stadium availability in the event we cannot play the Super Bowl as scheduled due to weather-related issues or unforeseen circumstances. Our planning process for the Super Bowl in Los Angeles is ahead of schedule and we look forward to hosting the Super Bowl there to culminate another fantastic NFL season for our fans and clubs."

There has been a spike in Covid cases across California, including Los Angeles County, due mostly to the Omicron variant. Other noteworthy events in the L.A. area, including the Grammy Awards, scheduled for Jan. 16, and the Critics Choice Awards (Jan. 9) already have been postponed.

Among the alternate sites being discussed is AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The stadium last hosted a Super Bowl in 2011, but was the site of the 2021 Rose Bowl that was moved from its traditional home in Pasadena due to Covid restrictions in Los Angeles County.

Attendance in Orlando in 2020 - just as Covid was entering the vernacular - was less than 12,000, and rented booth space has declined by about one-third since 2008. 

Current Covid restrictions in California require attendees to show proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test for entry into any indoor event of 1,000 people or more. Masks are required of everyone at such events regardless of vaccination status. Those restrictions were extended this week through Feb. 15 at which time they can be relaxed or extended.

The GCSAA already has said there is no contingency to bring its show to an alternative site, meaning the show will go on as scheduled in-person in San Diego, or it will be shelved in place of a virtual event that already is scheduled for later in February. The association deserves credit for having a back-up plan should the show be canceled due to Covid as well as serving the needs of those who are unable or unwilling to meet in person. But if the NFL can bring its three-ring circus to an alternate location at the 11th hour, a decision that would include re-ticketing for more than 70,000 attendees, the GCSAA should be able to do something similar.

According to the association, the show is too large for a Plan B and any alternative site that is large enough for its event already is booked. The fact is, however, the show is a shadow of the record-setting 2008 Golf Industry Show that attracted more than 25,000 attendees to Orlando. Although the show has been evolving since 2008 when the owners and club managers were part of the mix, the overall trend has been a downward turn that includes fewer attendees, vendors and floor space. 

Attendance in Orlando in 2020 - just as Covid was entering the vernacular - was less than 12,000, and rented booth space has declined by about one-third since 2008. 

There are many cities and venues we all would have scoffed at years ago that today probably would make suitable stand-ins for the GCSAA show, and maintaining communications with several of them on an annual basis likely could help alleviate some of the uncertainty surrounding this year's show and might lead to newfound locations for a regular or rotational host.

If the NFL is ready to move the Super Bowl at a moment's notice, doing the same with a trade show, while difficult, cannot be impossible.

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