“Play ball!” Searcy Mayor Kyle Osborne said, echoing Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s words during his announcement Thursday that community and school team sports can resume June 1.
“We have been sitting back and waiting and waiting and waiting for him to make that statement,” Osborne said. Searcy Recreational Sports League Director “Rigel (Page) called me and I said, ‘Get it going.’ We are getting started.
“I told Rigel, ‘Get it going, man.’ People are getting tired of being stuck at home and are ready to get out. I get calls every day. We are ready to do something.”
The plan is for the youth baseball season to start June 8 and to play for five weeks, making an attempt to get in three games per week. Week 6 will be tournament week. The season is scheduled to be over July 17.
Page said after the governor’s decision, he went right out to the baseball fields.
“I had a text with the mayor, double-checking the guidelines and making sure we were good,” he said. “ ... I put on our Facebook page that if people signed up, they will be notified by their coach by Monday. Due to the situation, as evenly as we can and randomly as we can, we’re going to pick teams.”
Children who want to play but have not yet signed up may still do so at searcyrecreationalsports league.org.
A chart of guidelines was presented for sports during Hutchinson’s news conference, including: “ticket sales online if possible; team practice, competition prohibited for close contact sports like basketball, wrestling, football, volleyball, soccer, martial arts; individual practice with own equipment permitted; conditioning training OK with limited group size, distancing; cheerleading and dance may practice under gym directive restrictions; practice, competition allowed for limited-contact team sports like baseball, softball, track, gymnastics, swimming; physical distancing whenever possible; use own equipment/disinfect any that is shared; participation discouraged if 65-plus or have health conditions.”
Another chart of guidelines included “athletes, coaches, staff asked about fever, symptoms, exposure; temperature checks for coaches, staff; face coverings for everyone 10 or older – athletes can remove during active sports activity, coaches, staff must wear at all times; showers prohibited, locker rooms only used for storage; frequent sanitizing of equipment, facilities; avoid huddles, high-fives and any other non-sport-related contact.; directive for gyms applies to training facilities; directives for venues, dining apply to athletic event facilities.”
In addition to the announced return of sports, Searcy parks reopened Friday. Posted on Searcy Parks and Recreation’s Facebook page was a reminder to “please follow social distancing guidelines. We will be updating everyone on reserving the park pavilions next week as well as a possible opening date for the community center.”
Searcy Swim Center Aquatic Director Chad Price told The Daily Citizen that “we will open on Tuesday, May 26, at 5:30 a.m.”
When asked if many people usually come out that early to swim, Price said, “Truthfully, that is our busiest time for lap swimmers and is actually one of our busier times of the day.”
Price said the center will also have “recreational swim” available.
“Between 5:30 a.m. and 7:30 a.m., the only pool we will have open will be our big lap pool and it will be for lap swim only. Our hot water pool will be used by our aerobics groups. We have social distancing guidelines. We will be taking everybody’s temp at the front,” he said. “Starting at 8 o’clock (in the morning) we will have somebody out in a tent, taking everybody’s temp before they even get to the lobby, making them fill out the COVID questionnaire.
“We are having modified hours for the time being. We’re open from Monday through Friday, 5:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. and that is only for lap swim, and we will reopen from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.”
At this time, Price said the center would not be able to open up the outdoor area with the play pool because there is no way to social distance out on the play structure.
“Once the governor and the Arkansas Department of Health relaxes those guidelines, we will get that open as quickly as possible,” he said. “We are only going to be able to have 80 people at a time. We can only go 50 percent capacity, which is more than the 80 but after adding in the social distancing guidelines, 80 is the max that we can do.”
Price said although the center’s staff wants people to have as much fun as possible, there are some things that they will have to enforce, just to help keep everybody safe.
“We are not going to be able to open up our showers and lockers so we are asking everyone to come with their suits already on,” he said. “Bathrooms can only be used for bathroom breaks.”
Private swim parties and swim lessons are unavailable at this time until the governor and the Arkansas Department of Health relax social distancing guidelines. Everyone must wear a mask to enter the facility and while on the pool deck. Masks cannot be worn in the pool. No outside food or drinks are allowed. No one under 18 will be allowed with being accompanied by an adult.