While all sporting activities in Alabama were suspended a month ago by Gov. Kay Ivey due to the coronavirus pandemic, a group headed by Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth and state Rep. Danny Garrett has recommended that youth sports be allowed to resume with May 11 as a target date. In a report named ‘Reopen Alabama Responsibly,’ the group made its recommendation last week, with a number of guidelines that must be met for youth sports to resume its seasons across the state. The summary of the report stated: “Maintaining social distancing and following the measures recommended in this section will be critical to establishing safe and healthy operations of youth recreational activities and sports. The application of the recommendations may vary by sport; however, these measures should not exclude or largely deviate from how they are described in this section.” The 162-page report detailed measures that would need to be implemented for the youth sports to return. The measures included properly spacing equipment to limit interaction, limiting the use of shared equipment and not allowing food and concessions to be opened. Following is a list of recommended guidelines that are included in the report that it insists must be followed along with additional recommendations from recreational leagues, cities, counties, the state and CDC recommendations: * Ensure that all player equipment is properly spaced to limit interaction; * Coaches, players, parents and attendees are required to practice responsible social distancing when and where possible, especially in common areas (i.e. dugouts); * Limit the use of team-shared equipment and encourage the cleaning and sanitizing of this equipment after each use; * Strictly monitor the health of each employee, coach and player and require any individual with a fever or other symptoms of COVID-19 to not participate in team activities; * Encourage use of face masks by players and in close contact areas and situations where applicable; * Facilities should increase frequency of cleaning and sanitizing measures especially in areas of high traffic, such as restrooms; * No food or concession sales will be allowed at facilities; * Public restrooms should be limited to a one-in-one-out policy; * Practices and games should be scheduled to allow for additional time for teams and attendees to exit the premises before other teams and attendees enter. While Gov. Ivey has not yet adopted the recommendations, Elba Parks and Recreation Director Greg Hanchey stated last week that, “The youth baseball and softball seasons have not been canceled. We still have hope to get the all clear very soon and hopefully allow the youth a limited time to practice and then if possible start the season on May 15.” “I have been in numerous virtual meetings with state officials in all summer sports and all options are still in limbo,” added Hanchey. “I plan to hold a virtual meeting this week with all coaches to make sure they are still willing to coach a team, and we will proceed from there as allowed. State officials in Dixie Baseball and Dixie Softball have always had May 1 circled as a potential starting date, but any and all plans are only projections until Gov. Ivey and state health officials give us the okay.” Hanchey reported that registration is complete for teams in age groups ‘12 and under,’ and added that numbers are high for youth signed up for tee-ball. He said schedules have been completed, with teams from Elba, New Brockton, Zion Chapel, Goshen and Kinston set to play interlocking schedules. “If we start in mid-May it will obviously mean having to rework the schedules,” said Hanchey, “ since that is the time we usually begin to wind down the regular season and pick all-star teams for post-season tournaments. Many league officials seem to favor playing the regular season in May and June, just to give the youth that want to play in the summer some form of normalcy. State officials in Dixie Baseball and Dixie Softball have hinted that there will not be any district tournaments, to allow for a delayed regular season to complete its season, and then possibly hold an ‘invitational’ state tournament.” Hanchey continued, “We know we have a lot to cover in a short amount of time if we get the go ahead, because we know that not all players that signed up will still want to play due to health concerns, and others may not play because the family will want to go on vacation once the ‘stay at home’ orders cease. If there is anyway possible we can still have a regular season in all our leagues we will do so. We are going to make certain that what we are doing is in the best interest of all the youth and the families in our community with the safety of all concerned being the number one priority.” “We have been keeping the grass cut at all the fields and work on the infield as much as possible,” added Hanchey, “but it will take some time to get the fields ready to play, which means some long hours ahead. We don’t mind the extra hours as long as the youth get the chance to play ball.” Renovations at Hawkins-Williams Park The renovations at Hawkins-Williams Park, the home fields for tee-ball, coach pitch and all softball leagues, are expected to be completed this week and should not in any way delay the start of the seasons. “The construction crews have been hard at work to get finished,” said Hanchey, “and we are confident we will be ready to go. We added concrete sidewalks in many areas to meet all ADA (American Disabilities Act) standards and also raised the backstops from dugout to dugout on all three fields from ten feet to twenty feet high. This should help protect the fans from foul balls that have always been a danger to those in attendance.”
Tiger town Park Splash Pad - The splash pad located at Tigertown Park is still scheduled to open on the Memorial Day weekend, and the date should not create any problems for the recreation staff. “We have always set Memorial Day as the opening day for the splash pad,” said Hanchey, “and we are confident that date will remain. We will have to do much more cleaning and sanitizing of the area this summer in an attempt to provide extra safety for all users, and will no doubt put some new rules in effect to ensure the health and safety of all users is met.”
Recreation Center - The recreation center, located on Claxton Avenue, will be closed until further notice due to problems with the floor in the gym area. The gym was closed to basketball this past season and no plans have yet been made for its reopening.