In a strange way, baseball bookended the COVID-19 pandemic, at least in Arizona. While the NBA was the first league to act and suspend its season on March 11, 2020, the virus’s ripples were not truly felt in the desert until the remainder of the Cactus League schedule was called off the next day.
Booty’s Wings Burgers and Beer has three locations, including two near spring training ballparks in Goodyear and Surprise. Business usually sees a boost every March, co-owner Andy LiButti said, but that spike was mitigated this year by limited fan attendance and team restrictions on off-field activities.
Spring training baseball sandwiched the worst months of the pandemic. And its return, alongside numerous new orders from Gov. Doug Ducey, signaled the beginning of a return to normalcy for many local businesses that rely on the boost in sales that Cactus League tourists bring.
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A year later, the pandemic now a part of our everyday lives, the Cactus League returned. With vaccine rollout off to a promising start, limited numbers of fans were allowed to attend. COVID-19 isn’t over, but we’ve now reached Opening Day and the end appears to be within sight.
“We’ve definitely seen a drop-off in that business,” LiButti said. “Plus, we rely a lot on the people associated with the team coming in. The sports writers, trainers, announcers, a lot of the players, they would all come in. So with them not being allowed to really come out, that’s