Play Ball! Phoenix To Reopen Athletic Fields Under CDC Guidelines

By Christina Estes
Published: Wednesday, September 2, 2020 - 9:23pm
Updated: Thursday, September 3, 2020 - 3:12pm

kids running around on soccer field
Christina Estes/KJZZ
Children playing soccer at Encanto Park in Phoenix before COVID-19.

People will soon be able to play soccer, softball and football at Phoenix city parks.

For six months, nearly 170 fields have been closed to the public. At the request of Councilmembers Thelda Williams, Jim Waring and Sal DiCiccio, the Parks and Recreation Department presented a reopening plan Wednesday night. 

Acting Director Tracee Hall said the city won’t restart its sports leagues but outside groups that follow CDC recommendations will be able to reserve fields. 

“Each team or organization will agree to self monitor their practices and games. This process will be enhanced by them having an on-site compliance person,” she said. “In addition, we have rovers who visit multiple park sites during their shift. They will observe games and practices and see if safety measures are in place.”

She said Phoenix is the only Arizona city that has not opened outdoor fields for organized sports. It’ll take about a week for staff to get things in order.

Councilmember Carlos Garcia and Vice Mayor Betty Guardado voted against the reopening. They wanted more time for public health experts to review and approve the plan, along with time to inform the public. Guardado said she understands the frustration and stress on families but she's "very nervous" because her district includes two ZIP codes with the highest COVID-19 cases.

But Williams, Waring and DiCiccio emphasized that children need to be outdoors for exercise and socialization. Williams said she probably gets a hundred emails a week from people asking when Phoenix will reopen city parks.

“I think it’s time and people can make the choice,” Waring said.

Councilman Michael Nowakowski said kids are already using the fields with no social distancing: “We need to take control of parks right now and not a month from now.”

Councilwoman Laura Pastor expressed concern about how often the restroom will be cleaned. Staff will research costs and options to increase cleanings and share the information during Tuesday’s policy session.

During Wednesday's meeting, Hall said the department would requirements to its field permit guidelines, including:

  • A commitment from teams and organization to follow guidelines and restrictions.
  • A commitment to inform parents and coaches about the guidelines and restrictions.
  • Spectators, officials and coaches will be required to wear masks.
  • Physical distancing will be encouraged unless spectators are from the same household
  • Six feet of distance will be maintained between the sports field and spectators
  • Implement modified allocation of schedules to include time for any necessary cleaning between use and reduce the potential for crowding.

Information Released By Phoenix Parks Department On Sept. 3

Organizations and teams participating in activities on these fields will be required to follow various safety procedures; including having spectators, officials and coaches wear a mask or face covering; maintaining six feet between the field and spectators; and limiting the number of participants on a field to 48 youth or 24 adults. The schedule will account for time needed to clean between reservations and reduce potential crowding.

Organizations and teams will agree to self-monitor and have a designated on-site compliance person. Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department staff will also monitor activity at these sites as they provide roving oversight at various parks.

Reserve an athletic field in a Phoenix park.

Phoenix’s public parks, trails and golf courses have remained open throughout the pandemic, but select outdoor recreational amenities are temporarily closed until further notice as city staff and City Council continues to monitor COVID-19 positive case metrics.

Closed city park amenities include:

  • Restrooms (in a park that does not have a reversable athletic field)
  • Playgrounds
  • Basketball and volleyball courts
  • Fitness equipment
  • Ramadas
  • Picnic tables
  • Splashpads
  • Encanto and Rose Mofford sports complexes

Detailed information about the city's outdoor recreational options and free virtual recreation programs is available at Phoenix.gov/Parks.

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