WMU, businesses face losses after sports cancellation

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Western Michigan University and surrounding businesses are preparing for big losses this fall.

This comes after the Mid-American Conference (MAC) announced it would be canceling all fall sports due to COVID-19. Western Michigan is one of 12 schools impacted by the decision.

“As great as we were doing at starting the year off and following and testing and doing what we wanted to do, we still could not ensure (student-athletes) safety and health and well-being,” said WMU’s athletic director Kathy Beauregard.

Beauregard says the school stands to lose a lot of money due to the cancellation.

“It is a tremendously difficult financial decision to make and yes the athletic department, we survive on obviously some institutional support but overall, most of it comes from our guarantees. We had $1.17 (million) guaranteed coming in from our Notre Dame game alone,” Beauregard said.

Nearby restaurant University Roadhouse says game days are some of their biggest days for business.

“Both patios normally full, upstairs, downstairs. It’s basically a big party,” said Manager Chase Hall as he described an average game day.

Hall says despite the lack of sports this year, he hopes that customers will still patronize the restaurant.

“It was definitely disappointing from a financial aspect. Those are some of our biggest days. But those are also some of our most fun days,” said Hall of the cancellation. “You get the college kids, the regulars, everybody has a great time, and we were looking forward to that. It stinks to hear that it’s canceled.”

The university is now planning to move fall sports to the spring semester and have both fall and spring teams playing concurrently. Officials say while this decision wasn’t easy, they hope students know their health is a top priority to administrators.

“We don’t have all of the information together at all yet on what practice is going to be like. There’s still a lot to be answered, to give them some more answers. We ask them to be patient with us, stick with us. Our coaches are all involved with them,” said Beauregard.

Beauregard says they are aware the cancellation may result in losing student-athletes to other schools where sports are continuing as normal, but they respect every decision that comes out of this.

They say even if COVID-19 cases begin to stabilize soon, fall sports will still be played in the spring.