By Joe Pantorno
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo encouraged the state’s major professional sports franchises to plan on reopening without fans in attendance during his daily briefing Monday morning.
“New York State will help those major sports franchises to just that. Hockey, basketball, baseball, football, whoever can reopen, we’ll be a ready, willing, and able partner,” the governor said. “I think this is in the best interest of all the people and the best interest of the state of New York.”
Sports have been suspended since the second week of March after the COVID-19 pandemic began spreading throughout the United States.
New York became the most heavily impacted area of the outbreak, developing the most positive cases and deaths in the country.
As of Monday morning, 350,121 positive cases were reported and 28,232 have died, per CNN. That’s more than double the numbers of the country’s second-most impacted state, New Jersey.
There is a more clear path for the lone professional sports team upstate to come back. The NFL’s Buffalo Bills are located in the Western New York region, which has fulfilled six of the seven steps needed for a Phase 1 reopening.
As for downstate New York — particularly New York City and Long Island — which is home to the Mets, Yankees, Knicks, Nets, Islanders, and Rangers, there is still work to be done before a re-opening of sorts can take place.
The Giants and Jets play their games in East Rutherford, NJ.
Long Island has fulfilled five of the seven steps needed while New York City — the epicenter of the state’s outbreak — has just three.
Regardless, the big four major sports leagues have been working on their respective 2020 plans well before Cuomo’s remarks on Monday.
Major League Baseball is slated for a potential return in early July with all teams playing in their home ballparks. Those in heavily-impacted areas could be relocated to spring-training facilities or another MLB park, but Cuomo’s sentiments suggest that he will help get baseball back into Citi Field and Yankee Stadium this summer.
As for the NBA and NHL, the situation remains much murkier. The latest reports indicate that playing out the remainder of the 2019-20 seasons in central locations to ensure the health and safety of players via isolation is the preferred method.
This story first appeared on amNY.com