MILWAUKEE — Spectators will not be allowed to attend the 2022 U.S. Olympic Team Trials at the Pettit Center in Milwaukee this week due to the spike in COVID-19 cases.
The trials will be held Jan. 5-9, 2022.
The U.S. Speedskating Board of Directors made the decision during an emergency meeting, citing early results from its COVID-19 testing of athletes and the high COVID-19 infection rates in Milwaukee, according to a statement Sunday.
The Executive Director of the Pettit Center, Randy Dean, said staff, volunteers and others are "very disappointed" in the change. But he adds, they "respect right of USOPC and US Speedskating to make such a decision in order to give the best chance for athletes to compete safely in the Trials and fulfill their dreams to compete for a spot on the 2022 U.S. Olympic Team."
Dean said they are coming up with a way to provide refunds to ticketholders. You can also make your purchase a charitable donation to Pettit Center, "to help offset the costs we have incurred." The Pettit Center is a 501c-3 non-profit corporation.
"I think it's tough all the way around for really different reasons," Dean told TMJ4 News on Monday. "The fans because among the fans, you have parents who want to see their child compete. They won't be able see them in Beijing. But, so hard on the parents, changing travel plans. Hard on the staff here but we still are optimistic about the event itself. A lot of our effort goes into that. We're sorry the fans won't be here. But you know, it's, the community I think, it's just too bad they can't participate in the Olympic movement this year."
"It'll even go during the Games, during the Trials themselves because we'll look around and see empty bleachers, on that," Dean says. "So it will hang with us for awhile but again it's the right decision to make. And we see the athletes, their elation making the team. And you know, some will be disappointed when they don't quite make it but that's what the Games and the competition are all about."
Since it was U.S. Speedskating's decision, they will help out with the cost of the infrastructure already built.
"The tent we're standing in right now, that's coming down tomorrow," Dean says. "We're not getting much money back from it. But at least that will be gone and other things are returning. So we'll do the best we can, and move forward, knowing that they are going to help us out."
And the nation and even the world will still see the showcase of Milwaukee.
"It'll be on TV, so we hope that the venue will show well. That Milwaukee will show well as it's televised live for those 5 days," Dean says.
But the disappointment will sting all through the week.