WNBA 2020 season bubble plans taking shape in wake of COVID-19

The WNBA is looking to salvage its 2020 season in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.Like the NBA, the league is considering placing players under sequestration in a specific host location to play out the summer slate.Multiple locations — including Orlando, Florida, Las Vegas, Nevada, and Uncasville, Connecticut — have been reported as potential landing spots, though plans are far from certain.”We need to look at the opportunities in this crisis,” WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said on Fortune’s “Leadership Next” podcast. “I think there is an opportunity to engage fans in a different way.”Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Like every other professional sports league on the planet, the WNBA is searching for a safe and effective way to salvage its 2020 season.And like some of the largest athletics enterprises in the United States, the WNBA is eyeing the “bubble” method as a possible solution.

WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert.

Associated Press

Though the league is far from announcing an official plan to launch its delayed — and highly-anticipated — 2020 slate, multiple sources have reported that the WNBA’s leadership is actively considering an option to place its players under sequestration in a specific host location this summer.The NBA’s plans to regroup at Disney World in Orlando, Florida, have been reported on extensively as Adam Silver’s league nears a return. While the WNBA could follow suit and play its games at The ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, league commissioner Cathy Engelbert has some other locations to consider as well.

According to The New York Times, MGM Resorts International has made proposals to multiple North American professional sports leagues, including the WNBA, to host athletes and other essential staff members in order to play out their seasons while isolated on a contained area of the Las Vegas Strip. Whether players, coaches, and other staff members affiliated with the Las Vegas Aces would join the rest of the league on The Strip still remains to be seen.

Las Vegas Aces star A’ja Wilson.

AP Photo/John Locher

Engelbert can also opt to move the league into another WNBA market. Mohegan Sun — which plays host to the Connecticut Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut — could host the entire league, according to Sun guard Jasmine Thomas.Regardless of where the WNBA chooses to resume, its more than likely games will not be open to fans for the foreseeable future. Some players and coaches say that further complicates the prospect of returning to the hardwood.”It’s difficult,” Thomas told CBS Sports. “You play the game because you love it, because of the essence of basketball. But a huge part of that, especially as a professional athlete, is that atmosphere. You know having your fans there, whether it’s your fans or the opposing fans, it just brings an energy and a whole different environment that feeds into that adrenaline, feeds into that excitement to play the game.”

Connecticut Sun guard Jasmine Thomas.

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

For her part, Engelbert hopes the league will be able to get creative to loop viewers into the action. In an appearance on Fortune’s “Leadership Next” podcast, the former Deloitte CEO said she envisions fans engaging with games via apps and various other strategies conducive to social distancing and other local and national health protocols.

“We need to look at the opportunities in this crisis,” Engelbert said. “And I think there is an opportunity to engage fans in a different way.”The WNBA has not released any information regarding the timeline of its return, though signs point to play starting up later this summer. Teams still have not been granted the authorization to resume preseason training, and some players are quarantined without access to hoops or proper exercise equipment. Notably, WNBA teams had to trim their rosters to 12 players by May 26 — before some recent draft picks had the opportunity to showcase their skills in front of franchise leadership.LoadingSomething is loading.

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