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How the coronavirus pandemic might affect traffic and kickoff times

If more people work remotely and rush hour decreases, do weeknight games need to start so late?
If more employees work remotely and the Howard Frankland Bridge no longer looks like this, will Rays and Lightning games start earlier?
If more employees work remotely and the Howard Frankland Bridge no longer looks like this, will Rays and Lightning games start earlier? [ DOUGLAS CLIFFORD | Times (2019) ]
Published Aug. 12, 2021|Updated Aug. 14, 2021

As employers and employees figure out the new balance between working in the office and working remotely, Arizona State University’s Christopher Lee expects society’s long-term answers to trickle into sports.

Weeknight games in the NBA, NHL and MLB usually start around 7 p.m. That gives typical 9-to-5 office workers enough time to drive home, change out of their business clothes and get to the arena before the first play.

The dynamic changes if more fans are working from home instead of downtown.

Fewer commuters mean reduced rush-hour traffic, making trips to the stadium easier. Maybe the drive across the bridge from Tampa to Tropicana Field won’t seem so daunting. (We can dream, right?)

Stop us if you've heard this, but bad traffic is one reason Tropicana Field's attendance ranks at or near the bottom of the league every year.
Stop us if you've heard this, but bad traffic is one reason Tropicana Field's attendance ranks at or near the bottom of the league every year. [ ARIELLE BADER | Times ]

“It’ll be interesting to see what that means in terms of attendance,” said Lee, who teaches fan behavior and sports marketing classes.

It will also be interesting to see what that means for start times. If work-from-home fans are no longer stuck in the car for an hour every evening, does a 7:10 first pitch still make sense if it pushes the final out past 10 p.m. on a weeknight?

“Maybe we should shift some of those game times,” Lee said. “It’s not a 7 p.m. game. It’s a 6 o’ clock game.”

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