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OCBJ INSIDER

Unlike the NBA, NHL and other sports leagues, the NFL has eschewed constructing a leaguewide “bubble”—i.e., restricting players and staff to a highly secured campus where they’re sheltered from the public—to protect the team from COVID outbreaks during what’s shaping up to be the strangest sports season on record.

Education, self-policing, and a heavy amount of testing is instead the league’s preferred route for now, although individual teams are taking different approaches to managing the details.

The LA Chargers, for example, are using a semi-locked down hotel a short drive down the 405 freeway from its Costa Mesa offices and practice fields as their training camp base.

The Irvine Marriott, part of the Irvine Towers office complex—which is home to the Business Journal—now counts a fair amount of Chargers signage, but few non-team visitors.

Players and staff were seen coming and going throughout the week. All were wearing masks. Camp opened on July 28; the team’s first game is scheduled for Sept. 13, in Cincinnati.

The Marriott’s ballrooms and offices are closed to visitors; they’re being used for meetings and team activities. Actual practice takes place in Costa Mesa for now, though full-contact drills aren’t allowed for a few weeks. Some meals are being prepared outdoors; hand sanitizer is omnipresent.

An outdoor check-in tent is being used to test players for COVID upon their arrival. Defensive star Joey Bosa made a quick stop off at the site just prior to his $135 million contract extension being announced last week.

The most noticeable addition to the hotel: a large, tented open-air gym (with no walls) has been constructed in a parking lot next to the freeway, for spaced-out workouts. It’s large enough to hold 20 or so players.

A sign of electric automaker Rivian Automotive’s growing OC presence: the much-hyped firm, expected to establish its HQ in Irvine, is looking to purchase and revamp the Laguna Beach South Coast Cinemas along Coast Highway into one of its first-ever retail spaces.

The company said it has proposed acquiring the property to use as a showroom-like space complete with a coffee bar, screenings and events in addition to opportunities for test drives. The cinema’s been closed for five years.

The proposed space “will continue the town’s long tradition of connecting people to the arts and outdoors,” the company said.

Rivian aims to bring its inaugural EV truck and SUVs to market next year.

If it can navigate Laguna Beach’s challenging regulatory environment and get the spot open in time for it to showcase the launch of those vehicles, it might be founder RJ Scaringe’s biggest achievement to date.

For more on OC’s growing role in the EV industry, see Kari Hamanaka’s front-page profile on Karma Automotive.

COVID-19-related issues aside, there’s plenty to smile about in OC’s dental industry—a growing cluster of device makers, management firms, implant makers and others that bring in some $7 billion annually.

See our inaugural Dental Companies list on page 26, and related coverage, for more on how OC has quietly become a major hub for firms serving dental practices across the globe.

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Mark Mueller
Mark Mueller
Mark is the Editor-in-Chief of the Orange County Business Journal, one of the premier regional business newspapers in the country. He’s the fifth person to hold the editor’s position in the paper’s long history. He oversees a staff of about 15 people. The OCBJ is considered a must-read for area business executives. The print edition of the paper is the primary source of local news for most of the Business Journal’s subscribers, which includes most of OC’s major corporate and community players. Mark’s been with the paper since 2005, and long served as the real estate reporter for the paper, breaking hundreds of commercial and residential real estate stories. He took on the editor’s position in 2018.
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