Teams were on the court of TaxSlayer Center warming up for the opening game of the 2020 Missouri Valley Conference Women’s Championship basketball tournament last March 12. Within hours, our world changed. The following hours and days were globally historic.

The balls stopped bouncing in the TaxSlayer Center because of a virus the world was only beginning to comprehend. Change and disruption

Missouri State players celebrate winning the 2019 MVC tournament at the TaxSlayer Center.

continued in blurred days to follow.

Scott Mullen, executive director of the TaxSlayer Center, said the arena was ready to host the Missouri Valley Women’s Championship a year ago when the virus rapidly changed virtually every form of sports and entertainment.

“We had installed hand sanitizer dispensers throughout the venue and had staff ready to wipe down and disinfect touchpoints. We were making plans to limit fans. It looked like we were going to move forward,’’ Mullen said.

A conference call abruptly stopped the plans.

“Based on new information and what other conferences were doing, the decision was made to cancel. It was disappointing and we felt horrible for the players, especially the seniors who had worked their whole college careers to get to

TaxSlayer Center has worked on federal relief for live-music venues nationwide.

this point,’’ he said. “It was difficult for everyone to cancel the tournament but it turned out to be the right call.’’

Five days later the NCAA canceled all national tournaments.

The NBA suspended games on March 11. The NHL followed the next day. Major League Baseball stopped spring training on March 13.

Theatres went dark. Bars and restaurants closed, along with thousands of small retailers.

The Disney parks … The Disney Parks, for gosh sakes!… were closed. Spring break plans were scrapped. Now this thing was real.

Lights Coming Back On

Nearly a year after the basketball tournament scheduled for the TaxSlayer Center was canceled, the riverfront arena in Moline is scheduled to again host the Missouri Valley Conference Women’s Championship again from March 11-14.  It will be the first TaxSlayer Center event in the main arena since the canceled tournament.

“This is the first step in getting back to normal life in the arena and we need to make sure we do it right,’’ said Mullen. “We are excited to have activity in the building after such a long time.’’

The TaxSlayer Center wasn’t actually dark or gathering dust. There was a flurry of activity even without scheduled events. Spectators didn’t see activities, but will see the results as the venue reopens.

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In the past year, the venue has undergone numerous renovation projects. Fan-friendly innovations including a new WIFI system and convenient changes in concessions, including mobile ordering and cashless concessions. The suites and conference center were renovated. Virus-killing ultraviolet lights have been installed on the escalator handrails and touchless flush and sink valves have been installed in the restrooms.

In order to reopen safely, there is an extensive plan under consideration for the basketball tournament.  Elements of the plan, still to be finalized, include:

  • Mandatory mask wearing except when consuming food or beverages in your designated seat
  • Pre-ticketed seating pods of 2, 3 or 4 ticketholders; no food or drink consumption on the concourse
  • Temperature checks of staff entering the building
  • No consumption of food or beverage in the concourse
  • Frequent disinfecting of all surfaces, including seats and rails
  • Clear barriers/sneeze guards at all concession points of sales
  • All players, coaches, athletic department staff, event staff and volunteers will be tested for COVID-19 daily by Genesis Occupational Health

National Safety Award

Scott Mullen is executive director of the Taxslayer Center.

Mullen said the TaxSlayer Center was among the first US. Venues to earn Global Biorisk Advisory Council® STAR™ accreditation. The accreditation recognizes the TaxSlayer Center for implementing stringent protocols for cleaning, disinfection and infectious disease prevention.

“The protocols we have instituted demonstrate that we have made the safety of our employees, guests and event partners a top priority,’’ Mullen added.

Even with extensive planning to host a safe event, the Missouri Valley Conference women’s teams may be playing in a nearly empty arena.

“We’re working with the Missouri Valley Conference and Visit Quad Cities and state officials with hopes a safe number of fans will be able to attend,’’ Mullen said. “It will be exciting just to have an event again, no matter how many people are in the seats.’’

The TaxSlayer Center is coming back as a regional destination for sports and entertainment with a new look, new features and a safety plan to keep spectators, employees and visitors safe.

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Sean Leary is an author, director, artist, musician, producer and entrepreneur who has been writing professionally since debuting at age 11 in the pages of the Comics Buyers Guide. An honors graduate of the University of Southern California masters program, he has written over 50 books including the best-sellers The Arimathean, Every Number is Lucky to Someone and We Are All Characters.