COVID gathering restrictions make Dawgs’ season, other Berglund Center events too costly

Published: Oct. 7, 2020 at 3:58 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - All your favorite sights and sounds of Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs hockey - from goal celebrations to fans banging on the glass - will be taking the winter off.

“We don’t have a business problem, we don’t have a hockey problem, we don’t have a community problem. We have a COVID problem," said team president Mickey Gray.

The Dawgs announced they have opted out of this year’s Southern Professional Hockey League season.

They, along with four other SPHL teams, are sitting this year out, while five teams will play an abbreviated schedule.

Gray says statewide COVID restrictions are making the season not financially viable.

“The reality for a minor league team is anywhere from 70 to 90 percent of our revenue comes from being able to hold events, and events are games," said Gray.

Under phase three restrictions in Virginia, only 1,000 people are allowed at mass gatherings. But the Berglund Center says it would only be able to accommodate 700 to 750 fans with social distancing in place.

Berglund Center’s General Manager Robyn Schon tells WDBJ7 that ticket sales from fewer than 800 people is not enough to even pay the bill to turn on the lights.

“We have, I think, it’s over 1,200 season tickets, so even trying to host a game, right there I have to go tell 500 of my most loyal fans that ‘I’m sorry but you can’t attend,’ and that’s a conversation that I wouldn’t want to have with any of them," said Gray.

In a written statement, Schon said the Berglund Center is “still trying to evaluate the financial impact this will have on [their] budget.”

She also predicts concerts and other large events will not be returning until possibly next summer. That is impacting approximately 250 employees who rely on staffing large events.

But she and Gray are both optimistic this is just a short-term setback.

“There is absolutely zero doubt that we will be dropping the puck in the ’21-22 season. It’s unfortunate, but we just have to wait to get there," said Gray.

The Berglund Center is still scheduled to host some smaller events this fall and winter. Some larger events and performances are scheduled for early 2021, but it is still unclear if those will be able to go on.

Copyright 2020 WDBJ. All rights reserved.

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