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Phoenix Cancels Tournaments Amid Debate Over Public, Mental Health

As COVID-19 cases rise, Phoenix is canceling tournaments at city-owned athletic fields. Nearly 4,000 teams — about half from outside Arizona — had planned to attend Phoenix tournaments between December and February with more scheduled for March and later.

During Wednesday’s city council meeting, Dr. Saskia Popescu, Phoenix’s public health consultant described tournaments as 'inherently risky.'

"It doesn’t matter if they're outside — they are in close quarters, they’re breathing heavily and we’re at a time in the U.S. and in Arizona where we cannot afford additional cases stressing the public health and healthcare system," she said.

In September when Phoenix voted to reopen athletic fields to groups under certain CDC guidelines. At that time, community spread benchmarks were labeled minimal and moderate. The most recent benchmarks, according to a city report, show substantial spread benchmarks in the areas of positivity rate and new cases per 100,000 residents.

Get The Latest News On COVID-19 In Arizona

Several parents urged the city council to keep athletic fields open — at least for local kids. 

"Our children need to be normal, to have a life, to be able to be with their friends," one woman said. 

"It's messing with the kids' mental health," a man said. "It took me four days, 48 phone calls and 112 emails to find a counselor for my son. That is a lot of time, and all my emails and responses back were they were just inundated, they’re booked and they can’t see adolescents."

"I share the concerns of parents who are worried about the mental health and welfare of their children," Mayor Kate Gallego wrote after the vote. "By taking action now, we will move more quickly to a time when it is safe to play games and tournaments on city fields."

By a 7-2 vote, with Councilmen Sal DiCiccio and Jim Waring against, to cancel all athletic field reservations until COVID-19 benchmarks return to Sept. 6 levels. Park ramadas and basketball and volleyball courts are also closed. Playgrounds, tennis courts and golf courses will stay open.

While most large tournaments take place at Rose Mofford and Reach 11 sports complexes, reservations and allocations will also be canceled at 144 fields in flatland parks.

The Phoenix Parks Department says:

Community members using the city’s outdoor recreational amenities should continue to follow these guidelines related to responsible physical distancing.

  • Do not use public recreational amenities if you are exhibiting symptoms of illness
  • Wear a mask or face covering
  • Bring your own wipes and hand sanitizer
  • Keep a safe distance of six feet or more from others

Phoenix Cancels Sports Tournaments

As a senior field correspondent, Christina Estes focuses on stories that impact our economy, your wallet and public policy.