The city’s parks department will resume issuing permits for outdoor youth sports next month, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Friday. While the fields and ballparks have been open throughout the coronavirus pandemic, NYC Parks will issue permits for organized, low-risk sports played outdoors starting on September 15. Sports leagues for baseball, softball, and soccer will be issued permits, but indoor sports, including swimming, will not be allowed.
“Our children have been through so much this year and have been yearning for more outdoor play,” de Blasio said in a press release. “Thankfully we’re continuing to see improvement in beating back this disease, and can safely permit youth sports this fall. We’ll continue to monitor our progress and put health and safety first.”
All leagues must enforce COVID-19 regulations, according to the city, which will be monitoring compliance. All coaches, staff, spectators, and players must wear face coverings while not playing. Players are also encouraged to wear face coverings while playing, when possible.
Other rules include maintaining social distancing when not playing, limiting spectators to two people per player, and not congregating after the game is over. If a league violates rules three times, the agency will revoke permits for the entire organization. Similar to the city’s plan for schools, if New York City’s percentage of positive COVID-19 tests is over three percent, permits will be suspended.
League organizers and parents pushed for the city to allow for outdoor sports, especially after the Parks Department originally said no permits would be issued for the fall because of health concerns. “Baseball, softball and Little League teams can play or practice on any open field,” Charisse Hill, a Parks Department spokesperson, told Gothamist. “As this public health crisis is ever-evolving, we will continue to reassess our ability to issue permits.”
An online petition by a coalition of more than 100 youth sports groups that asked the city to issue permits this fall gathered nearly 9,000 signatures. The #Fields4NYCYouthCoalition said the fall season “will positively impact the mental and physical health” of young New Yorkers.
“Today, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a reversal of the recently-imposed “first-come-first-play” policy for the city’s athletic fields and facilities,” the coalition said in a statement. “The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation will begin issuing permits to youth organizations that had previously applied. On behalf of more than 60,000 New York City children and families that our programs serve, we thank the Mayor and the N.Y.C. Parks Department for listening to our concerns and making a change.”
Permits will be for youth leagues, but adult sports leagues will still be able to use any field that is not taken by another group.
“I thank Mayor de Blasio for listening to calls for common sense and safety when it comes to our parks,” Council Member Justin Brannan said. “This will not only give kids the opportunity to get some good exercise and learn life lessons from organized sports but it will also bring better Covid-19 safety practices to our parks. This is a win-win for our kids and for our community efforts to defeat the virus.”
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