Required to close, local athletic businesses brace for economic impact

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The upcoming week of schools’ spring breaks normally would be a lucrative one for indoor sports facilities like Players Choice Academy in Huntley.

High school teams would be playing games, but the indoor facilities still could have had steady flow with younger travel players getting in swings or attending lessons.

“A lot of parents bring their kids by on spring break just to get them out of the house and burn off some energy,” PCA owner Matt Sibigtroth said. “Obviously now that’s not going to happen.”

Local indoor facilities, like most other businesses, closed at 5 p.m. Saturday, if they had not already shut down, after Governor J.B. Pritzker issued a stay-at-home order Friday for all residents, except those in certain essential businesses, through April 7.

The state wants people to remain isolated as much as possible in order to slow down the spread of COVID-19.

Some facilities were open this past week and offered places to hit, throw and field to baseball and softball players who could not practice with their high school teams.

PCA, Pro Players Consultants in McHenry and Sports City Academy in Woodstock remained open. Pure Sweat Basketball in Crystal Lake closed this week since schools were closed.

“We didn’t feel it was right about having kids come in if schools were saying it wasn’t OK to be there,” Pure Sweat chief operating officer Rich Czeslawski said. “So we postponed this week. Spring break was going to be an optional week, but now that’s changed. We’re taking it week-by-week and seeing what happens in the world.”

The baseball/softball facilities all were taking the necessary precautions with wiping off common areas, providing hand sanitizers and limiting the number of people.

“We said no more than 10 bodies on the (turf) infield at one time,” Pro Player co-owner Andy Deain said. “We also said no more than two people in the cage at a time. We had hand sanitizer all over the place. All of the equipment was sprayed down every day. We closed last Friday and Saturday and had professional cleaning of our entire facility. That’s the precautions we took to open the last four days.”

Pro Player shut down Friday afternoon. PCA remained open until 5 p.m. Saturday.

“We still had a few people who wanted to get their last-minute workout in,” Sibigtroth said.

Mike Turner, the owner of Sports City in Woodstock, is concerned about the order eventually being stretched past April 7.

“We’re following and closing temporarily, and we’ll reopen as soon as possible,” Turner said. “The question is about the duration. How long? Let’s keep it as short as possible. Like other businesses, we have to pay attention to our expenses and generate business. There’s a cost at shutting down the state. That can hurt a lot of people.”

Czeslawski said Pure Sweat has an advantage through technology, even with its doors shut.

“We’re going to do some things, we have the technology to do some things virtually,” Czeslawski said. “We’ll try to supplement that way. I’ll try to keep our guys that work here afloat as long as I can. But how long this thing goes, if they’re not training players, they’re not making revenue. At some point, you get into other financial burdens.”

There are still questions about if the virus will be better controlled and, if so, when more of normal life can resume.

“It’s uncharted waters,” said Deain, who also coaches Crystal Lake Central’s varsity baseball team. “I don’t think life will resume as normal, go from one extreme to the other. We’re not sure if it’s going to be a slow ease back into life or when these kids are going to get back to school.”

As frustrating as the situation is, Czeslawski appreciated the perspective from one of the great NCAA coaches.

“The thing that hit home for me was what (Connecticut women’s coach) Geno Auriemma said,” Czeslawski said. “He said, ‘Look, every parent wants their kid to play in the NCAA Tournament, until their kid contracts it, then it’s somebody’s fault.’ He put it perfectly. We certainly don’t want to contribute to this thing spreading, so that’s where our focus is right now.”

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