Sunday, March 15, promises to be a perfect day in Portland sports: The Shamrock Run Half Marathon weaves through downtown in the morning, then the Trail Blazers welcome back injured center Jusuf Nurkic for a nationally televised afternoon game at Moda Center.
That's the starter's pistol for a blockbuster March. The Portland Timbers return home to Providence Park on March 28. Moda Center hosts the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight rounds of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament on March 28 and 29, with Oregon Ducks star Sabrina Ionescu expected to take center stage. In April, Nike hosts the world's best teenage basketball prospects at its Hoops Summit, also at Moda Center.
These are highlights of the sports calendar and will place Portland in the national spotlight—even as the novel coronavirus threatens to eclipse the spectacle.
These events are mass gatherings that health experts warn are ideal conditions for spreading COVID-19.
Last week, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee advised residents to stay out of crowds. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, facing a smaller COVID-19 caseload, hasn't yet issued the same advice.
But Carlos Crespo, director of the Portland State University School of Community Health, says some people should consider staying home. "At this stage, and with a state of emergency," he says, "it means the stakes are higher, and if you are one of the people who is in a high-risk group, or if you may be in contact with somebody who is in the high-risk category, definitely social distancing should be a priority."
As of press deadline, none of these events had been canceled, postponed or moved.
The Trail Blazers front office says Moda Center hasn't decided to cancel any events and isn't issuing refunds, but the arena is letting fans bring their own 1-ounce or smaller bottles of hand sanitizer. "We have increased the frequency of disinfecting high touchpoint areas on campus," a Moda Center statement reads, "provided additional hand-sanitizing stations near main entrances, switched to antibacterial soap and have distributed informational preventative health fliers throughout the campus."
The Timbers and Thorns front office says Providence Park is also supplied with more hand-sanitizing stations. "We encourage fans to wash their hands frequently," the teams say, "and if not feeling well, please stay home."
Here are the largest sporting events headed to Portland this month.
Shamrock Run Half Marathon, 15k, 8k, 5k | March 15 | Downtown streets, including Northwest Naito Parkway | Participants projected: 25,000
Portland Trail Blazers vs. Houston Rockets | March 15 | Moda Center | Capacity: 19,393
Portland Timbers vs. Philadelphia Union | March 28 | Providence Park | Capacity: 25,218
NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament,
Portland Regional | March 28 and 30 | Moda Center | Capacity: 19,393 (three games)
Nike Hoops Summit | April 10 | Moda Center | Capacity: 19,393