Utah Athletic Commission cancels and postpones multiple events, but CEO Jeff Robbins is optimistic for the long term



(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Jeff Robbins of the Utah Athletic Commission speaks during a luncheon at Rice-Eccles Stadium during a visit to Salt Lake City on Wednesday, November 14, 2018.

Jeff Robbins, president and CEO of the Utah Athletic Commission, observed off-schedule events.

The Cadet Fencing World Championships are gone. The North American Ironman Triathlon Championships have been postponed. Even the AMA Supercross – professional dirt bike races that are expected to bring in more money to the state than any event since the 2002 Olympics – has been called off. All have fallen victim to COVID-19 and steps taken to prevent the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus.

Still Robbins, whose job it is to organize events like these in order to defend Utah’s claim as a state of sport, did not press the panic button. Yes, shelter-in-place orders and public unrest has erased its calendar of sporting events for April, May and even June. But this pain is only temporary. Once the threat of the coronavirus has passed, he believes, the current drought will be relieved by monsoons from sporting events and a healthy public appetite for them.

“We think there’s a lot of pent-up demand,” Robbins said. “But the good thing is that by the time we’re all able to organize more events, I think, you know, everyone will be ready to go out and attend events and come back somehow. to a form of normality. “

Sports commission staff have been busy in the weeks following the start of the spread of COVID-19 in the United States, causing the cancellation of major sporting events across the country. Every day, Robbins is on the phone with companies and promoters. Some want to chart a course forward after postponing their spring and early summer events. Others are trying to schedule new events for later this year or for 2021.

As long as he thinks they’ll appeal to the Utahns or provide proof to the International Olympic Committee that Utah is capable of hosting large-scale events, Robbins does his best to make room for them. This is, after all, what he has been doing for 20 years. When then-governor Mike Leavitt created the non-profit Utah Sports Commission in 2000 to bolster the state’s sporting reputation in hopes of winning an Olympics, he said. responsibility to Robbins.

However, Robbins’ 2020 calendar is filling up quickly. The USA Cycling Master Road National Championships are scheduled for late July. Vans will host two World Skateboarding Championships in August, which is the month of the Tour of Utah Cycling Race and the US National Junior Judo Championships. The Ironman event in St. George has moved to September.

The commission coordinates around 50 races, showcases and championships per year. Some events this year will not be rescheduled. Most of them are international events, like the fencing championships, which have been canceled altogether. For those looking for new dates, Robbins said he tries not to schedule anything until July for the sake of the length of the moratoriums on large gatherings.

“Often times we will review, since we don’t have a crystal ball, do we also need to see a save date? Robbins said.

The first event on its agenda is the Professional Disc Golf Association World Championship, scheduled for June 13-20. The Utah Championship, an annual golf event that is part of the Korn Ferry Tour (formerly the Web.com Tour), is scheduled for June 25-28 in Farmington.

The disappearance of major events will cost Utah millions of dollars every day, according to the Utah Tourism Board. Robbins could not provide an estimate of the number of commission events in limbo. That’s enough to make him concerned about the vacuum in the short term, but he said he thinks Utah might be even better in the long term.

He said in addition to changing bookings for events already planned for Utah, the athletic commission was looking to attract events that, by changing the date, might not be able to secure their original venues. . Some of those events could be Olympic trials or national or world championships, he said.

“It puts you in a good position to solve problems if need be,” he said. “But then again, you are compassionate and you never wish anything on anyone in terms of trying to pursue the things other people have. But, again, this is a long term approach and you try to do your best to serve customers so that they will come back for the long term.

“You know, there will be impacts like the economy has on all of us. The objective is therefore to go through and and and to bring more events over time. “

Because ultimately, said Robbins, sport will once again have a place in everyday life. Maybe that’s just the thing that gets everyone through this ordeal.

“I think there is an element of healing,” he said. “When the time is right, there is a role that sport can play. “


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