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Despite uncertainty over COVID-19, Wolves planning for next season

Jon Sata, the Wolves’ senior vice president, partnerships & business development, said the franchise would be ready if this season restarted, but “most everything is pointed toward a start next season.”

The Wolves are planning for next season, even though they don’t know when it will begin.
Courtesy of the Wolves

Late April and early May is a time when the Wolves and other teams plan for the future. That’s still the case this year, even though the season is technically alive and it’s unclear how the AHL will proceed if it resumes or when the next one will begin.

Jon Sata, the Wolves’ senior vice president of partnerships and business development said the franchise would be ready if this season restarted, but “most everything is pointed toward a start next season.” There are already some provisional dates for the next campaign, and as of Wednesday, the league’s plan was that 2020-21 would be business as usual in the fall until it’s not.

“Our first wave of planning has an early October start for games and that we’ll play a traditional season,” Sata said. “The Plan B looks like a delayed start to the season and the potential of a truncated season thereafter. I think the way that we’re approaching it is planning for the full schedule, and then if we have to pare it down, we’ll adjust -accordingly.”

Sata said the Wolves would work with Allstate Arena on scheduling because, like other venues, arena management will try to rebook the events lost during the spring, summer and potentially the fall. That means the building could have a very busy slate even before the Wolves’ home schedule is plotted.

“It’s a big puzzle that we’re doing our best to stay on top of,” Sata said. “We’ll have it put together when we’re ready to go.”

When that happens is anybody’s guess.

On April 24, AHL president and CEO David Andrews said on SiriusXM that the league is beginning to pivot toward the 2020-21 season. Playing games without fans, Andrews said, would be very unlikely because the AHL is a gate-driven league.

Andrews said the AHL is building for an October start next season and needs to be ready for that possibility. But it also must look for operating models beginning in November, December and January.

Presumably, one part of the equation for teams is adjusting for an economy that will look much different than it did March 8, when the Wolves last hosted a game. Sata, however, sounded confident that wouldn’t affect the Wolves as much because of their ticket prices.

“If the economy is challenged when this starts again, which it likely will be, I think we’re in a favorable spot,” Sata said.

Sata said a larger worry is people’s comfort in a public setting. The Wolves will follow all public guidelines. The Village of Rosemont, which owns and operates Allstate Arena, will be committed to following those rules and making sure that the building is safe, with precautions such as touch-free sinks, soap dispensers and overly aggressive sterilization and cleaning measures.

But in general, Sata is trying to keep things in perspective and find some positives. The stoppage and the complications it has caused are a hassle for the sports world, but compared to what other people are dealing with, these are “first-world problems” for the Wolves.

The time has allowed the Wolves to catch their breath, evaluate the business and maybe come out a better organization.

“This is tough, this is challenging, but some of the best outcomes come from adverse situations,” Sata said. “We need to push through that and maintain positivity and find some positivity in this.”