A scheduled slate of sporting events and concerts at the Wells Fargo Center, including a Flyers game Tuesday night, is unchanged and the events are open to fans, despite the City of Philadelphia urging residents to avoid large public gatherings as the new coronavirus spreads.
On Tuesday, public health officials announced the first presumptive positive case in the city and recommended people avoid public gatherings of more than 5,000 people to tame the spread of the virus. Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said that while the city isn’t canceling events, it is asking organizations to urge attendees to stay home.
Comcast Spectacor, which owns the Wells Fargo Center, said in a statement before Tuesday’s Flyers matchup against the Bruins that the game would be played as scheduled, but ticket-holders who feel ill or have underlying health conditions should “consider not attending.” Ticket-holders can call the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday night at 215-218-7825 and requests for a refund will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
The Wells Fargo Center, an arena that’s the home of the Sixers and the Flyers and is among the city’s largest concert venues, holds nearly 20,000 people. Over the next week, the schedule includes four Flyers games, three Sixers games, a professional lacrosse game, and two concerts, including a sold-out show on Friday featuring Grammy Award-winning singer Billie Eilish.
No decisions have been made regarding any games or events taking place after Tuesday.
City officials didn’t estimate how long the recommendation would last, but Farley said if the spread of the virus worsens, the city may lower the 5,000-person threshold. Public health administrators and organizations across the country are facing pressure to limit gatherings in a process called “social distancing,” which experts say can delay and slow the spread of infectious disease. On Tuesday, Massachusetts announced 70 cases of the new coronavirus were tied to a single conference in Boston.
The Sixers are monitoring the situation in accordance with the NBA and the Wells Fargo Center, but the team’s schedule hadn’t changed as of Tuesday, a team source said. The source said the Sixers will manage refunds on a case-by-case basis and work with fans to find another game to attend in the future.
The NBA has also been mulling games without fans.
“It would obviously be a rough situation, and not ideal, by any stretch of the imagination, but ... if the people in the know felt like that was what was needed to do to provide the greatest level of safety, then that’s what we will do,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said, before the city’s recommendation was announced.
Some platforms that facilitate ticket sales have released information on whether ticket-holders are able to receive refunds. StubHub, which allows fans to buy and sell tickets to shows and sporting events, is offering two options in the event of a cancellation: They can either receive a full refund that would be dispensed two to three weeks after it’s processed, or elect to receive a StubHub coupon worth 120% of the initial purchase price, which they can receive in one to two days.
But if an event isn’t canceled, no refund will be offered. The company advised people who aren’t comfortable attending the event to list their tickets for sale. Ticketmaster has a similar plan.
Jennifer Mosley, who has a ticket to Friday’s Billie Eilish concert, said she’s still planning to attend.
“I spent a decent amount of money on tickets and upgrades,” she said.
Mosley, 27, of Malvern, said she’s worried about physical contact with strangers and plans to bring along a few bottles of hand sanitizer to use and share with people around her.
Friday’s show in Philly is the third stop on the North American leg of Eilish’s Where Do We Go? World Tour, which also makes stops next week in New York and Boston, both of which have reported dozens of cases of the new coronavirus.
Eilish hasn’t yet announced concert cancellations, but other artists have. Dozens of shows in Asia have been axed, Madonna canceled two shows in Paris, Ciara — who is pregnant — rescheduled a show in Texas, and Pearl Jam postponed the North American leg of its tour. Organizers of music festivals on the West Coast, including Coachella and Stagecoach, are postponing shows until the fall.
Meanwhile, other major events in the region from sporting events to professional conferences have been canceled as additional cases of the virus are confirmed and some workplaces institute travel restrictions on employees.
The Wells Fargo Center had not, until Tuesday, announced precautions related to coronavirus, frustrating some ticket-holders who wanted to know what would happen in case of a cancellation and what steps were being taken to ensure the safety of fans.
Chris Larkin, whose wife and two middle-school-age daughters have tickets to the concert Friday, said they were frustrated by the “silence” from Live Nation and the center.
“If these businesses decide to go through with the show on Friday, no parent wants to disappoint their kids and waste their money by choosing not to attend,” said Larkin, 47, of Pottstown. “But at the same time, no parent feels particularly good about an entertainment event putting their kids, themselves, or the people they will encounter in the weeks following, at higher risk of contracting a highly communicable disease.”