‘I don’t think there was another choice’: Steamboat Mountain Soccer Tournament canceled for the first time in 36 years | SteamboatToday.com

‘I don’t think there was another choice’: Steamboat Mountain Soccer Tournament canceled for the first time in 36 years

A Steamboat Soccer Club U-14 player throws the ball inbounds in a game against St. Vrain as part of the 2019 Steamboat Mountain Soccer Tournament. The 2020 tournament has been canceled.
Shelby Reardon

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The Steamboat Springs Soccer Club has decided to cancel the Steamboat Mountain Soccer Tournament for the first time in the event’s 36-year history due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a news release from the club’s Executive Director Rob Bohlman.

The tournament, which was scheduled for July 16 to 19, annually attracts about 10,000 visitors, resulting in one of the busiest weekends in Steamboat all summer. Registration fees generate upwards of $100,000 for the Steamboat Soccer Club. That money is not only used to sustain the club, but it subsidizes fees and funds scholarships for many of the 750 or so participants in the club from Routt and Moffat counties. To help save money, the club is furloughing staff for a period of the summer. 

“It’s a bummer, but the reality is we’ve never had a situation like COVID-19,” said Tournament Director Brad Church. “We’ve never had a contagion that regardless of whether or not you believe it’s going to kill you, we’ve never had anything that’s been this contagious that could spread this quickly and overwhelm communities.

“I don’t think there was another choice that made sense if you care about the community and its prospects from a health perspective,” Church added.

Any registration fees that were already paid will be fully reimbursed. If a team booked through a lodging partner, a fee-less cancellation should be possible.

Even though the city is slowly opening itself up again, the tournament brings in thousands of people from nearly a dozen states. With a little over a month until the first games, Church said around 70 teams had committed. Church expected to hit capacity before July.

It would be a huge challenge to try to enforce social distancing during the tournament, according to Church. Spectating a soccer game forces a large amount of people to gather in a small space, something the club didn’t find socially responsible to encourage. 

“The people that would have come during these periods of time in the summer are probably still just as likely, if not more likely, to come given they were locked down for most of the spring,” Church said. “They just hopefully won’t be gathering in large gatherings like we have at soccer fields. That’s really where the issue stems from.”

Considering the wide geographical and political landscape that participants will be coming from, Church said it was difficult to say how many people would comply with any recommendations or requirements put in place by the club if the tournament were to continue. 

“As tournament director, (I didn’t) feel like I can get a consensus on how people will actually act even if you put in good processes,” Church said. 

The club also took into consideration the fact that the city has been undergoing major budget cuts and may not have the same parks and recreation or police resources available to handle a massive tournament. 

The Steamboat Soccer Club has set up a “Play it Forward” Go Fund Me campaign to try to make up some financial losses. Not only is the club losing revenue from the summer, but the spring season was canceled as well, so they didn’t see any registration fees over that time period. The fundraising goal is set at $50,000, and as of Tuesday afternoon, more than $8,200 had been donated.

“I always like to say this tournament has been the heartbeat of our club,” Bohlman said. “So it’s definitely going to severely impact us financially, but we will get to the other side.”

To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.

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