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Phoenix City Council votes to cancel sports tournaments as COVID-19 cases surge

As COVID-19 cases continue to surge in Arizona and around the country, on Dec. 2, the Phoenix City Council voted to cancel sporting field reservations, impacting 30 upcoming soccer and softball tournaments scheduled from December into February 2021.

City staff provided two options to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and the options were discussed in a Wednesday, Dec. 2 meeting.

The first option is to keep the tournaments on but not allow spectators and out of state teams until health benchmarks return to levels reached in September when Maricopa County showed a minimal to moderate community spread.

The other option is to cancel all scheduled tournaments. This option was passed in a 7-2 vote.

Health officials urged the council to consider the recent spike in cases when making their decision. Dr Saskia Popescu explained that large gatherings, even when outside, have been found to contribute to the spread of the virus. She recommended canceling games with players from out of state. 

An adult softball tournament is scheduled at Rose Mofford Sports Complex and a youth soccer tournament was scheduled at Reach 11 Sports Complex.

Councilmember Sal DiCiccio isn't concerned and says to let the kids play. "They're not super spreader events to be clear about that. What they are, are just events for kids to be outdoors."

Parents also weighed in at the virtual meeting, some supportive of canceling sports amid this recent surge while others have said taking sports away would be a devastating blow to their children’s well-being.

“We can beat this virus I commend the city of Phoenix for not always what is easy but for doing what is best for citizens,"  one parent said.

Another parent said, “This affects me personally. My 12-year-old son was diagnosed with clinical depression and he has been suicidal. He is on medication and seeing a counselor 2-3 times a week. I urge you guys before you close parks, please I am all about options, a look at how much our youth is being affected by not being able to see their friends and play baseball."

From early December through February 2021, there were nearly 4,000 teams scheduled to play in Phoenix and around the Valley. 1,900 teams are from out of state.

"It's just window dressing. It's politics. You don't keep the kids from being outdoors and enjoying the outdoor activity. The problem is not the outdoor sports in these type of events, the problem is other areas," he said.

Back in September, the city decided to restore parks and recreational services when COVID-19 cases dropped.

DiCcicio expected the council to vote to shut tournaments down despite his stance.

"Everything needs to be open in the city of Phoenix. So, I won that debate and my guess is tomorrow because of the politics of it and the window dressing that's going to occur that this is not going to get through and the city of Phoenix is going to shut down some of the parks. I don't know if they're gonna do all of them," he said.