With less than three weeks to its scheduled first match on June 6, versus Switzerland, Newport Polo remains on hold and hopeful that Governor Gina Raimondo will approve its plan to re-open.
Polo is suggesting modifications that they believe would comply with adequate social distancing, while changing the game to reduce physical contact among players.
So far, according to polo’s Agnes Keating, they have not heard from the governor. “Like the Boston Red Sox schedule, the only known factors that would affect our schedule currently extend to late in May,” Keating said. “That is as far out as our respective Governors have projected. Information about what comes after May will be announced when all the known factors can be weighed in.”
What polo has suggested is a new configuration to tailgating spots, with 10 foot buffer zones between spots, some limitation on the number of guests allowed per spot, and elimination of general admission areas that would facilitate the additional space needed to spread tailgating spots. Also, polo has proposed more distance between spectators in reserved seating, and a game that eliminates physical contact and is what Keating has described as more akin to “flag football.”
Opponents would change with the likelihood that foreign teams would be prevented from traveling to Newport, with perhaps other restrictions on domestic teams. Matches, she has suggested could be between Newport’s own players or other players in state.
Whether any of this happens is dependent upon the governor, who has prohibited one-time events that attract thousands, like the Newport Jazz, Folk and Music Festivals.
Other major events have canceled, not all one-time events. Among the cancellations, besides the Newport music events, the Rhythm & Roots Festival, Wickford Art Festival, Virtu Art Festival, and Theatre by the Sea’s season.
Keating, however, notes that polo’s season is four and a half months, and a lot can change over even a short period of time.
“We know that Governor Raimondo has received our proposed Safety & Social Distancing Plan and is considering it,” Keating said. “… The Polo season is scheduled to take place as far out as 4 1/2 months from now. Conditions will likely be different over the course of those months. Just think about how different things were four months ago. Unlike one-time events, it is not necessary for us to make a blanket decision about our events over that span of time.”
Newport Polo remains determined to offer fans a season, whether it begins in early June or is some shortened version.
“Through 29 years, the majority of our fans have preferred that we stay on schedule if at all possible,” Keating said. “Many have spent months and even years planning an event at polo, and don’t want to have to reschedule. We provide this level of reliability, even when weather or economics are not in our favor to do so. We are bringing the same determination to the 2020 season. It is a certainty that the 2020 season will not be economically successful, but we are determined to have as much of the season as possible, under the safest conditions that the experts determine that we can operate within.”
Meanwhile, Keating said “we are currently working on our timeline to make decisions about the approaching matches, as necessary. We will be offering a variety of options for our current customers, who have made advanced reservations. These choices will include refunds, transfers, credits, and other options that will be explained in detail to our customers when the Box Office reopens. It is important that we keep all of our patrons safe, and the options will encourage patrons to make the right choices relative to their needs, including those that are high risk, not feeling well or expected to isolate/stay home.
“There is no playbook for these circumstances,” she said. “We are doing our best to adapt.”
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