PHOENIX – The Phoenix City Council voted 7-2 Wednesday to shut down all organized sports activities at parks and fields around the city until at least February over concerns about increasing COVID-19 cases.
Starting Thursday, all field allocations and reservations will be canceled, including all scheduled youth sports tournaments.
Sports fields and park amenities such as basketball courts, picnic tables, fitness equipment, volleyball courts and sports complexes will be closed. All other amenities including playgrounds, grass areas, park restrooms, city hiking trails and golf courses will remain open.
Tempe, Goodyear and Surprise also have shut down youth sports fields
The council’s decision will affect roughly 30 soccer and softball tournaments scheduled to take place at the city’s five sports complexes: Desert West, Encanto, Papago, Reach 11 and Rose Mofford.
Safety concerns have risen recently as Arizona has hosted tournaments involving increasing numbers of out-of-state teams, even as the number of COVID-19 infections continued to increase statewide.
Scrutiny and criticism increased last week when the Desert Super Cup youth soccer tournament drew approximately 340 out-of-state teams over the Thanksgiving weekend.
The Super Cup drew 56 out-of-state teams in 2019.
This year, many more teams traveled from states in which COVID-19 restrictions still do not allow tournaments to take place.
Phoenix mayor Kate Gallego issued a statement last week saying she was “gravely concerned” about the possible spread of COVID-19 at the Super Cup, but did not cancel the event.
The decision to allow the tournament to proceed elicited a variety of reactions on social media.
Some supported the decision as part of a return to normalcy, citing the potential mental health benefits of youth sports.
Many others said the mayor’s lack of action was irresponsible, and a potential danger to public health.
“I think that the criticism was warranted on some level due to the number of out-of-state teams,” said Geoff Borger, president of Arizona Arsenal Soccer Club, which had more than 10 teams competing in the Super Cup last weekend.
“I think that AASC and Arizona Soccer Association is doing everything that they need to do to keep our kids, our coaches and the parents safe,” he added. “They’re taking the necessary precautions.”
The council will now debate whether to proceed as planned with future tournaments, limit out-of-state participation or cancel the events altogether.
Approximately 4,000 teams scheduled to compete in Phoenix-based tournaments in the next few months – about half of them from out-of-state – await the council’s decision.
Local youth tournaments immediately impacted include the Cactus Winter Classic (softball) and the Salvation Army Christmas Angel (soccer), both scheduled for this weekend.
The potential effect of the council’s decision remains unclear.
Tournament organizers could respond to the ban by simply moving their events to facilities outside of the city’s jurisdiction.
Regardless of the outcome, public safety remains a top priority for local politicians, tournament organizers and club administrators.
“We are taking, the club administrators and ASA administrators are taking, I believe the necessary precautions to allow kids to compete safely,” Borger said.