PBA Works To Put Safety First During Special Events Restart
The Professional Bowlers Association does not have the deep financial resources that leagues like MLB and the NBA have to conduct rigorous COVID-19 testing, so PBA CEO Colie Edison stressed the outfit had to "take every other precaution" in deciding to restart last month. The PBA Tour returned on June 6 with the PBA Strike Derby and since then has held three other special events at the bowling center in Jupiter, Fla., owned by PBA parent company Bowlero Corp. The league adopted a significantly modified competition structure built to limit the total amount of bowlers, PBA personnel and TV broadcast crew required on site. According to the PBA, 8-10 total players were at the events with no more than four on the approach at a time. This way, there was no physical contact between players. Edison credited the small group of "essential" individuals -- opposed to the hundreds of bowlers and staff at a typical PBA event -- as being a key reason why the Tour could return safely without mandating COVID-19 tests prior to the restart. While tests were not mandated, many players did procure one individually before playing.
UNPACKING PROTOCOL: The PBA’s health-and-safety process has taken into account many different areas of concern. "We're doing temperature checks as soon as anybody walks in the building," Edison said, "and then they're given a wristband to show that they do not have a fever. Face masks are required at all times on our set unless you are actively bowling." Social distancing is practiced at all times -- even in the TV broadcast truck. Edison said, "We've inserted plexiglass and we've actually built out a separate trailer so that the production team has social distancing and feels more safe. There's no sharing of equipment."
TV MOMENT: Edison indicated that the PBA experienced significant year-over-year gains in the male 18-34 demo both before the pandemic shutdown and now, momentum that she wanted to harness and build off with the restart. She said, "I wanted to take what was obviously a challenge and turn it into an opportunity for PBA." As such, returning in June became the priority. Edison: "We really saw it as an opportunity to reach a new audience, being able to have bowling on when many people don't think about bowling, when it isn't top of mind, when it's such a niche sport." With the King of the Lanes series having wrapped up on Wednesday and with no other events scheduled between now and late September, Edison said the PBA is looking forward to resuming the remainder of the '20 Tour season "when it is safe to do so and are discussing protocol options" at present. Plans will be announced at a later date.