Wild Things Suspend Season Under Threat of State Enforcement
For Immediate Release
August 10, 2020
Washington, PA – The Washington Wild Things confirm the organization was warned by the Pennsylvania State Police that a continuation of the baseball season could lead to enforcement actions. “We are extremely frustrated right now,” said Steven Zavacky, Executive Director and President of the organization, “We have done everything humanly possible to safely operate our facility…... we have gone above and beyond, and it was working.“
Earlier this spring, Governor Wolf permitted professional sports to resume play in front of 250 people; the Wild Things immediately went to work putting together an efficient and effective plan that would enable spectators to safely enjoy an afternoon or evening at the ballpark.
“It was my job,” said General Manager Tony Buccilli, “to put together a program that would ensure our players and fans stayed safe while enjoying quality competition. To that end, the Wild Things invited three other teams to play a season in Washington County. The teams did not travel, and all players remained in the Washington area. From the very beginning, we worked to ensure safety for everyone involved. All four teams were in isolation before the season began, and all the players were extremely responsible about this because they knew how important it was for this project to be successful.”
“When the Governor limited in person attendance to 250 people he also outlined a procedure for requesting an exception. The Wild Things submitted a comprehensive plan to the Secretary of Health outlining all of the steps the Wild Things would take to keep people safe,” said Zavacky. “The Wild Things requested that they be allowed to operate at 50% capacity, which would be 2200 people. And we were extremely pleased the Secretary of Health approved the plan,” he added. “At the beginning of the season when we saw an uptick in the number of cases in Southwest Pennsylvania, the Wild Things decided to not exceed 250 people, even though we had an exemption because this action was the most responsible way to respond to the circumstances.
Protocol throughout the summer at Wild Things Park has included minimizing in-person ticket sales, monitoring employees and players health, performing temperature checks on fans entering the park, requiring masks, and offering a concession menu that included canned beverages, prepackaged condiments, prepackaged ice cream products and prepackaging hot dogs and hamburgers. The Wild Things also added social distancing signage, a reserved section for people aged 55 and older, plexiglass shields as well as hand sanitizing stations throughout the park. The facilities were cleaned and disinfected before and after every game.
Zavacky continued, “Despite the fact that we were successfully providing families with safe, quality entertainment, I was warned this morning that the Wild Things were out of compliance with the Governor’s edicts. While we vehemently disagree, the message was clear. End the season or face consequences that would cripple the organization going forward.”
Buccilli went on to say, “We feel terrible. We never want to disappoint our fans and we were hoping not to have layoffs. Equally painful, we’re pulling the rug out from under our players and coaching staff who are in the middle of playoffs. It’s terrible to work hard, trying do the right things, and then to be accused of doing something wrong.”
Stu Williams, one of the team owners added, “The Wild Things have continued to be an economic generator for Washington County this summer, drawing people from all over the country to Washington, PA where they could experience one of a handful of places hosting live professional baseball. In addition, the Wild Things generated business for area hoteliers, landlords, and restaurants, by drawing four baseball teams to live here for six weeks. We couldn’t have done any of these without several individuals who helped us to have as successful a summer as we had. From state officials: Senator Camera Bartolotta, Representative Tim O’Neal to County Commissioners Diana Irey-Vaughn, Nick Sherman, and Larry Maggi to the great folks at North Franklin Township including Supervisors Bob Sabot, Sil Passalacqua, and Mike Quinn and their staff, and to everyone at The Washington County Tourism and Promotion Agency. We also thank our corporate partners for staying with us this summer. The Washington County Community is a very helpful and supportive one and we will always be grateful for the consideration they extend to us.”