4:10pm: Toronto’s ban focuses on city-led events, mayor John Tory clarified in a public statement. While the ban does not appear to explicitly rule out professional sporting events, mayor Tory’s press release states:
The City’s decision provides clear direction to event organizers to enable them to make sound decisions in support of public health efforts and their business needs, access insurance, support impacted employees and manage sponsors. The City urges event organizers to follow Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health’s recommendations of physical distancing as a way to minimize COVID-19 transmission in the community when reviewing their event plans for the upcoming months and make prudent decisions about their cancellations. Physical distancing means limiting the number of people a person comes into close contact with, including keeping two metres (six feet) apart from others, avoiding mass gatherings and avoiding crowds.
Asked for additional clarity, mayor Tory’s office confirmed that sporting events are not specifically barred under the ban (Twitter link via TSN’s Bryan Hayes). That seems something of a technicality at this point, however. Given the municipal limitations set forth by mayor Tory’s office and a recent provincial emergency order prohibiting organized events of more than five people, it’s extraordinary difficult to envision a scenario in which a stadium whose capacity sits north of 53,000 is hosting baseball games.
3:44pm: The City of Toronto has banned public events until at least June 30, tweets Tom Harrington of CBC News Radio. While it’s long been apparent that Major League Baseball’s shutdown will extend beyond the current May 10 date, the news out of Toronto provides further evidence that if the league determines that play can indeed resume, there will be notable challenges and obstacles to staging MLB games.
The ban on public events comes against the backdrop of increased speculation about the possibility of games being played in empty parks. Should the league attempt to resume play prior to the end of June, it’s now clear that the Blue Jays will either need to take that measure or explore a neutral site at which to host their home games. It’d be a surprise if they’re the only club that finds itself exploring such alternatives.
The Toronto Sun’s Rob Longley provides a bit of context on what the ban means for the Jays (Twitter link); from Opening Day through June 30, the Rogers Centre was scheduled to host 54 percent of the Blue Jays’ home contests in 2020. We already knew that a notable chunk of those games wouldn’t take place as scheduled, of course, and it’s possible that if the conclusion of the regular season is indeed pushed back into late October that the Jays could recoup some home games on a newly constructed schedule. A late start to the season would surely require some agile adjustments to the schedules of all 30 clubs.
Of course, there’s also no guarantee that Toronto’s events ban will only run through June 30. As we’ve seen with stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders throughout the United States, the end dates on these public health measures are regularly extended and are hardly set in stone.