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Racquetball/Handball/Paddleball Tournaments in the Time of Covid-19

Thank you to everyone that participated, volunteered, worked and supported the 11th Annual 3WallBall World Championships. We truly appreciate you!

Having just completed the first major event for our sports since March, there are a number of circumstances that can now be revealed about how close we came to not having this event. Looking back, maybe it shouldn’t have taken place.

But first, let’s just say that there were several areas that could have and should have gone better, we are aware. And if this event returns for a 12th year, those issues will be corrected. This event has run very nicely for 10 of the 11 years, so we hope you will cut us some slack on this one.

As you all know the entire racquetball season was wiped out for all players, indoor & outdoor, the same for handball and paddleball. We had begun planning for 2020 shortly after the 2019 3WB event ended, wanting to make improvements as is the case each year for the 3WB event.

As we approached the 6 month mark, everything shuttered due to Covid-19. But we continued to work and promote the event never imagining the catastrophic impact that this pandemic would visit on all our lives.

We moved into summer watching for signs of improvements, it was very uneven. Regulations on Covid-19 management differed radically from state to state and were (and continue to be) ever-changing, Nevada in particular, has had one of the most stringent restrictions in the country. Las Vegas, being the economic epicenter having visitors coming from all over as travel restrictions were being lifted, has had the most governmental oversight which posed almost insurmountable challenges to try to host the 3WB Championships.

Add to this mix the fact that the STRAT Hotel had undergone a near wipe-out of its event personnel, to the point that they had next to no experience with this event. We were basically taking on aspects of planning that had never been in our sphere of responsibility.

We are talking about navigating the permit process. And not just the permit process, which is pretty straightforward, but the approval process to hold the event involving the myriad of other entities with Covid-19 added to the mix. Health Department, State Business & Industry Dept. Nevada Gaming Control Board, City of Las Vegas, Directives from the Governor’s Office, the list goes on…..

With each State directive that was to guide how and when businesses in Nevada, ie Las Vegas could reopen, there were differing interpretations and applications. We kept watch on the gathering capacity number hoping for it to rise, but giving ourselves targets for the event to “go” or be cancelled.

The US Open announced their postponement and shortly after, with 6 weeks to the 3WB event, we elected to move to their date to give us more time for the gathering capacity number to increase as the Nevada state directives made additions to the re-opening procedures. Having the event permit process dropped on us mid-September was an unexpected and anxiety riddled experience, figuring out what to submit and to whom, City and State.

We previously mentioned the other entities above, with each directive change, it brought differing approval processes to the point that sometimes the entities in the chain didn’t know that they were to be part of the process.

September 29th, the directive that increased gathering capacities to 250 gave us great news, since the 30th was to be our final go or no-go point. State B&I let us know that we could proceed with the City of Las Vegas event permit. We felt that with an on-site capacity of 250, while observing the “no-spectator” aspects of the NV state directives, we could still host the event and accommodate up to 600 participants. Masks and social distancing were not anything new for people given the daily living activities of the last several months. Resubmit plans and adjustments again.

We hit our max number of players on October 6th, coincidentally, the same day that our City permit was to be issued only to be told that the most recent directive of October 2nd was being applied to our event - no recreational tournaments until October 24th, construction halted, we were going to have to cancel the tournament.

Hang on a minute; this is a Pro level event, not recreational, so back to work we went. Only this time we were directed to the NV Gaming Control Board and then the Health dept. to get additional approvals. Ok, we can do this, let’s resubmit everything again.

Only the various offices weren’t really prepared to handle the procedures described in the directives, no one was moving too swiftly and our time was running out. Friday before the event, we get more bad news, NGCB wouldn’t move forward unless we had health dept. approval and around we go again…. The Hotel was also ready to pull the plug, anxious about having to dump 1000 room nights. Pressure was at an extreme level, we were so close to the kick off, we couldn’t let it go.

We had to call in all the favors we could, Senators, lobbyists, the retired mayor and the current LV mayor, someone, anyone to champion our cause. Given that there was a Pro golf event happening that same weekend and a Pro Pickleball event happen a week after ours there had to be a way to get our approvals and our permit.

Thanks in large part to all the people that went to bat for 3WallBall, the Mayor’s office stepped in and got it done! Monday before the event, we had both approvals and could complete the City permit; Tuesday before the event we had the hard copy in hand. Wednesday, the MRF Pro-Am kicks off the event. Thursday dawns with more operational challenges, running behind, disappointed family members, lines to get registration completed. Adjustments were made on the fly but still not our best product.

The rest of the event went off and thankfully folks seemed happy to have an event and see each other. Could things gone better? Absolutely. In the end, we (team 3WallBall) were happy to get through it, learned a lot and if we do hold another event, will take knowledge we’ve gained to continue to improve the event.

It is already challenging and expensive enough to host an event of this nature but add to it that this year’s event brought so many unexpected costs and the added pressure of the elevated safety standards; it is apparent why events chose and continue to choose to cancel or postpone events.

We’ve heard and read the negative and positive comments and we do take them to heart. But perspective is everything and unless you know the whole story, you have an incomplete point of view.

Thank you to all who joined us this year for your patience.

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