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Some Valley cities continue hosting youth sports tournaments despite virus surge

Despite calls from healthcare leaders for Valley cities to shut down youth sports tournaments to curb the COVID-19 surge – many city leaders have decided to keep their fields open and let the games go on, but with health precautions.

Unlike Phoenix and Tempe, cities including Scottsdale, Gilbert and Mesa are currently keeping the fields open for large tournaments.

In Scottsdale, the Surf Cup Soccer Tournament is scheduled to begin Sunday, Dec. 27 bringing in thousands of people from across the country.

Scottsdale city leaders say their staff is enforcing mitigation measures and it’s only using five of the 10 fields at its sports complex.

"Utilizing only every other field at a time to allow extra space. Also putting restrictions on when players can show up prior to game time, things like that," explained Chris Walsh, Scottsdale Parks and Recreation Manager.

In Mesa, city leaders decided to keep their fields open, citing the potential for hundreds of hotel and hospitality employee layoffs as a factor.

John Giles, Mayor of Mesa, explained saying, "Had we chosen to cancel the tournaments over the next couple of months, that absolutely would’ve resulted in layoffs and a significant economic impact."

Economics and public health weighed heavily on the decision of Mesa city officials.

"I see tremendous value in keeping the fields open for the emotional, mental and physical health of the kids out there using these fields," the mayor said.

Ultimately, city officials agreed on keeping the sports complexes open and adopting stricter enforcement measures giving city personnel and park rangers the authority to police and shut down games.

Meanwhile, public health officials are calling on more cities to shut down youth sports tournaments, saying they're considered to be a factor in the current COVID-19 surge in Arizona.

"There’s just this big giant disconnect between public health officials and elected officials in this state," said Will Humble with the Arizona Public Health Association, adding, "Our elected officials are making decisions that are inconsistent with basic guidance to get us through this last patch while the vaccine is widely distributed."

The Mayor of Mesa says the council will not hesitate in shutting down the fields in the near future if rules are not being followed by players, spectators and tournament organizers.

The town of Gilbert is also continuing to host tournaments but says it has not been taking any new tournament reservations since Dec. 2.