Those looking forward to the return of sports social clubs are eagerly awaiting Phase 2 of pandemic reopening for the green light.
For local businesses like Kaboom, it’s a moment that can’t come soon enough.
Paused since mid-March when Florida governor Ron DeSantis halted all social gatherings with more than 10 people due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the virus exacted a particularly painful economic toll on the social and sports club industry.
Still silent are the many volleyball courts, kickball fields and cornhole bars that have brought fun competition and commerce to Pensacola.
“We went from having the most teams we have ever had consistently, to not even be able to finish a league that started back in February,” said Aleacia Miller, director of Kaboom Sports & Social Club. “It hurts not to see the city alive with activities that Kaboom hosts and other companies.”
Kaboom isn’t alone in feeling the economic crunch of the pandemic.
In a recent survey by the Sport and Social Industry Association, which includes over 60 businesses and approximately 2.2 million players, 100 percent of businesses reported economic impact from the shutdown.
Nearly half reported 100 percent loss in revenue since mid-March while layoffs and furloughs have affected half of the responding businesses.
According to Miller, the SSIA has been active in building a support structure for social and sports clubs struggling under the economic burden. In addition to GoFundMe and other fundraising campaigns, the organization is compiling economic data and working on regulations for re-opening businesses.
“Since Kaboom works closely with bringing people together in a social gathering, we have been very cautious with not making this pandemic worse and keeping our city safe by taking heed to the safety guidelines the CDC has put out and what the city of Pensacola is able and ready to handle,” Miller said.
“Now that gyms and some youth tournaments have been reopening, we are hoping we are right behind them.”
Some social clubs have seen re-openings in May. Activities in open environments are seeing quicker returns, such as the Gulf Coast Cornhole’s tournament at Hemingway’s.
While Miller said Kaboom expected to restart its bowling league on June 1 thanks to a safety collaboration with Cordova Lanes, other sports remain up in the air.
Kaboom typically hosts its cornhole in bars and rents municipal parks for kickball and volleyball, each of which hinges on the uncertain arrival date of Phase 2.
It’s a stressful waiting game for the ever-friendly Miller, who can typically be found bouncing between Oar House, Lions Park, Cordova Lanes and more on Kaboom’s competitive weeknights.
“I miss seeing Kaboom members, I miss my friends, I miss hugs, I miss walking downtown to see it alive,” Miller said. “I miss seeing folks happy and moving, I miss being able to just be.
“Look for Kaboom during Phase 2 opening. You’ll see my friendly face waiting for you.”
Eric J. Wallace can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 850-525-5087.