Grab your cleats and soccer balls, because the City of Phoenix is ready to play ball.

For the first time in several months, athletes and coaches can now reserve public sports fields and other facilities. The change comes after Phoenix Councilmembers Sal DiCiccio, Thelda Williams and Jim Waring brought a reopening plan to a recent City Council meeting.

The reservable facilities had been closed since April 2, which was also an order by the Council. Several of these fields and courts are in North Central, including at Granada, Solano, Palma and Colter parks. These parks boast various different facilities, including soccer and baseball fields, as well as other multi-purpose spaces.

DiCiccio represents Phoenix’s 6th district, which includes North Central.

“We’ve had a huge number of folks pushing for this,” said DiCiccio’s Chief of Staff Sam Stone. He said that many athletes and parents were driving to open athletic facilities in different cities across the Valley when the fields in Phoenix were closed.

“In that regard, it’s much safer to have more fields with less crowding, and of course, having them closer to their homes,” Stone added.

The Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department determined that three health-related metrics for reopening these fields were met. There had to have been a downward trend in COVID-19-like symptoms within a 14-day period and in the number of positive tests within a 14-day period, as well as the ability of healthcare facilities to effectively treat at-risk individuals without the possibility of overload.

All non-participants of sports are required to wear masks and physical distancing between spectators is encouraged, except for those living in the same homes. The allocation times in between games have been changed so that the fields can be sufficiently cleaned.

Rovers and park rangers monitor the sites. Violations of these guidelines can lead to suspensions of future reservations or allocations of fields.

Councilmember Debra Stark, who represents Phoenix’s 3rd district, which includes a significant part of North Central, is pleased about the reopening.

Stark said many parents told her they will be happy to get their children out of the house. She said it took her a while to get there, but after talking with the acting Parks and Recreation Department director and reading the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidelines, she was more confident about the reopening.

“I think there’s a lot of pent up frustration,” Stark said. “At least now, there are different outlets for people.”

Parent and coach, Jeff Tisot, president of the East Sunnyslope Neighborhood Association & Block Watch, has two young athletes at home. Tisot said he believes playing sports with their peers will be good for children’s mental health.

He did disagree with the city’s move to re-open the bathrooms around these fields.

“There’s no way you’re going to be able to keep them sanitized,” Tisot said.

The city has doubled down on its restroom cleaning, now cleaning them twice a day.

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  • Nicholas Johnsen

    Nicholas Johnsen is a master’s of Mass Communications student at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism.