Children play soccer at Encanto Park in Phoenix before COVID-19.
People will soon be able to play soccer, softball and football in Phoenix city parks.
For six months, nearly 170 sites have been closed to the public. At the request of council members Thelda Williams, Jim Waring and Sal DiCiccio, the parks and recreation department presented a reopening plan on Wednesday evening.
Acting Director Tracee Hall said the city will not restart its sports leagues, but outside groups that follow CDC recommendations will be able to reserve courts.
“Each team or organization will agree to self-monitor their practices and matches. This process will be enhanced if they have a compliance person on site,” she said. who visit several sites in the park during their shift, they will observe games and practices and see if safety measures are in place.
She said Phoenix is the only city in Arizona that hasn’t opened outdoor fields for organized sports. It will take about a week for the staff to put things in order.
Council member Carlos Garcia and Vice Mayor Betty Guardado voted against reopening. They wanted more time for public health experts to review and approve the plan, as well as time to educate the public. Guardado said she understands the families’ frustration and stress, but was “very nervous” because her district includes two ZIP codes with the highest COVID-19 cases.
But Williams, Waring and DiCiccio pointed out that children need to be outside for exercise and socializing. Williams said she probably gets about 100 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 children are already using the fields without social distancing: “We need to take over the parks now and not in a month.”
Councilwoman Laura Pastor expressed concern about how often toilets are cleaned. Staff will study costs and options for increasing cleanings and share the information during Tuesday’s policy session.
During Wednesday’s meeting, Hall said the department would impose requirements on its land permit guidelines, including:
- A commitment from teams and the organization to follow guidelines and restrictions.
- A commitment to inform parents and coaches of 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 the spectators
- Implement a modified schedule distribution to include time for any necessary cleaning between uses and reduce the potential for crowding.
Information released by the Phoenix Parks Department on September 3
Organizations and teams participating in activities on these grounds will be required to follow various safety procedures; including ensuring that spectators, officials and coaches wear a mask or face covering; maintain six feet between the field and the spectators; and limit the number of participants on a field to 48 young people or 24 adults. The schedule will take into account the time needed to clean between bookings and reduce potential crowding.
Organizations and teams will agree to self-monitor and have a designated compliance person on site. Phoenix Department of Parks and Recreation staff will also be monitoring activity at these sites as they provide roving surveillance at various parks.
Public parks, trails and golf courses in Phoenix have remained open throughout the pandemic, but some outdoor recreation facilities are temporarily closed until further notice as city staff and the city council continue to monitor metrics of positive COVID-19 cases.
Municipal gated park amenities include:
- Toilets (in a park that does not have a reversible sports field)
- Basketball and volleyball courts
- fitness equipment
- Picnic tables
- splash pads
- Encanto and Rose Mofford Sports Complexes
Detailed information on the city’s outdoor recreation options and free virtual recreation programs can be found at Phoenix.gov/Parks.