The Mitchell Parks and Recreation Department isn’t going to let the COVID-19 virus put an end to the summer sports and activities it offers.
Although the summer sports will look a bit different this year, nearly all of the leagues and programs will be played out as of now. That’s according to Recreation Director Kevin DeVries, who provided an extensive update during Thursday’s Parks and Recreation Board meeting.
“We will have most of our programs for the summer being offered, but they will be modified,” DeVries said. “I’m just glad that we’re going to be able to offer them most of our sports programs this summer."
One of the most notable changes to youth baseball and softball this summer will be no gameplay, DeVries said. Instead, the youth baseball players will be divided into groups of 10, while they participate in drills and work on fundamentals with coaches. In addition, spectators won’t be allowed to gather on the bleachers during the drills and fundamental training. Despite the changes, DeVries is relieved the youth will have an opportunity to participate in summer activities and sports.
Parks and Recreation Director Nathan Powell noted the sports and activity programs could be subject to change within the next few weeks prior to the start dates.
“We’ll have three to four fields going every hour with our Legion coaches. There will be some fun drills, but we don’t want the sharing of equipment with helmets and such,” DeVries said. “Regardless, we’re going to provide them some baseball and softball to play".
Tennis lessons are still on, but the three-week postponement for the start of the program will make for a slightly shorter summer season. Theater and youth track are among the programs that were nixed for the summer, largely due to the facility closures that are used for the activities.
While registration has yet to open up, DeVries is well aware the numbers are likely to be significantly lower due to the pandemic. To give a potential preview of the program sign ups, DeVries said he met with Kids Club program directors recently, who informed him there are 20 kids registered in the club, roughly 100 shy of the typical 120 kids.
DeVries said registration for the summer sports programs will begin on Monday. However, registration will be online only to limit unnecessary contact, making it a first for the Parks and Recreation sign-ups.
According to Sports Complex Supervisor Jeremy Nielsen, the crew he oversees has been preparing the softball diamonds for adult leagues, which he said are on pace to begin league play in early June.
Nielsen said there have been a few slow-pitch softball and baseball tournaments that have been cancelled due to the virus, which were slated to be hosted at Cadwell Sports Complex.
“Concessions workers will be wearing face coverings, along with gloves. We will also have the plexiglass barrier as well,” Nielsen said. “When we get staffed this coming week, we will put the bases out on the fields, drag the fields and get ready for teams to start playing on the fields. We also will put the volleyball nets and soccer nets up.”
Outdoor pool, Rec Center updates
Aquatics Coordinator Jamie Henkel has been operating the indoor pool at the Rec Center with some limitations, which will ease as the virus quells. Henkel referenced the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s claims that state chlorine, outside air and sunlight, all help kill the virus, which played a role in the decision to open the outdoor pool on June 8. However, Henkel broke down the list of changes and restrictions that will be implemented at the Outdoor Aquatic Center.
Some of the notable changes for the outdoor pool will be the elimination of lounge chairs and no access to outside lockers. Henkel said the CDC guidelines require the lounge chairs to be disinfected every 20 minutes throughout the day, which she noted wouldn’t be feasible. Lastly, the sand pit area will be off limits due to the potential risks it could have with spreading the virus. Level One swimming lessons will be canceled for the summer, considering the instructor having to physically touch youth swimmers.
“I’m trying to figure out how to mark off the 6 feet of separation, and I will have some staff who act as rovers. They will be tasked with helping clean the bathrooms, and reminding kids to keep physical distancing if necessary,” Henkel said.
For staffing, Henkel is breathing a sigh of relief after roughly 40 lifeguards who are needed for the indoor and outdoor pools to operate safely are in place for the summer. A week before the city of Mitchell began shutting facilities down to curb virus from spreading, Henkel completed the lifeguard training session, leading to the hiring of additional lifeguards.
“I did lifeguard training the weekend before the shutdown, so I had just hired seven lifeguards on the spot,” Henkel said. “I really lucked out to get the rest of my lifeguard staff because I got 10 of my college kids (lifeguards) to come home for the summer.”
As for the Recreation Center, which opened its doors May 4 after being shut down for nearly two months, the age restrictions will be lifted on June 8. That means all youth may enter and access the Rec Center without parental or guardian supervision.
“We’ve been cleaning machines and restricting locker room use in the Rec, and we are slowly starting to see a lot of our members make their way back,” DeVries said. “The regulations we have in place at the Rec Center right now are set to expire May 31, and we will see where things are at on June 1.”