Arizona governor gives green light for pro sports to return, minus the fans

"Major league sports can resume limited reopening, without fans, this Saturday," Gov. Doug Ducey said.

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By Dennis Romero and Juliette Arcodia

Pro sports are welcome to return to Arizona as soon as this weekend.

"Major league sports can resume limited reopening, without fans, this Saturday," Gov. Doug Ducey tweeted Tuesday while announcing the easing of some restrictions aimed to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The invitation applied to Major League Baseball, the NFL, the NBA, the NHL and Major League Soccer, Ducey said at a news conference Tuesday.

"Of course, this would be with CDC guidelines and protecting public health," he said. "We have had discussions with leaders of some of these leagues, and they all know they are welcome to operate, play and perform in the state of Arizona."

The move follows reports that Major League Baseball was considering a truncated season beginning in early July that would include games only in Arizona and Florida.

The league's owners were reported Monday to have approved a proposal for an 82-game season that would begin in July, but details must be worked out with the players' union.

Ducey said positive coronavirus tests, hospital stays and symptoms were declining in the state, inspiring him to let his stay-at-home orders expire Friday. The state began allowing limited dining at restaurants this week. Gyms, pools and spas will also be allowed to reopen this weekend.

Full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak

Nearly a month ago, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said a shortened pro baseball season was feasible as long as teams played in empty stadiums and players were tested weekly and isolated off the field.

This 2020 season was supposed to start March 26. Teams were in spring training on March 12 when MLB suspended all play.

The pandemic has shut down virtually all sports around the world.

Linda Takahashi contributed.