As Upper Arlington officials prepare to open two of the city’s three swimming pools next month, they also planned to lift closures of public tennis courts and allow youth baseball and softball leagues to open Tuesday, May 26.
As precautions against the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, a number of recreational activities have been prohibited at public parks by the state of Ohio. Those restrictions were lifted May 14.
Among restricted sports were tennis, baseball and softball.
City Manager Steve Schoeny and recreation director Debbie McLaughlin announced during a virtual conference session May 18 with Upper Arlington City Council that those activities would return with restrictions.
“It will not be the same as it has been in the past,” Schoeny said. “Just like the COVID-19 virus has touched every other element of our lives, it will touch those programs as well.”
Under the plan, the ball fields would be opened for practice and the subsequent resumption of youth baseball and softball leagues.
“We are preparing guidelines for our coaches, players and spectators,” McLaughlin said.
“Contact sports,” such as football, soccer and lacrosse, still will not be permitted yet as the state works through regulations for allowing their return, McLaughlin said.
The city has four hard-surface tennis courts at Fancyburg Park, four at Thompson Park and one at Sunny 95 Park. It also has 12 Har-Tru clay courts at Northam Park.
Players will be required to follow coronavirus-related guidelines for playing as set out by the U.S. Tennis Association at usta.com.
“It’s really about playing on your own side of the court, not exchanging sides, and then also only touch the equipment that you bring and (return) a ball in play without touching it,” McLaughlin said.
The biggest changes, McLaughlin said, will be at Northam, where people pay to access courts, tennis leagues are held and players often congregate socially.
“Season-pass sales would still apply the same as in the past, as well as people who choose to pay on a daily basis,” McLaughlin said. “But all sales will be online, and we will not have sales at the facility.”
Courts will be available for 90 minutes by reservation, and McLaughlin said players may prepay at upperarlingtonoh.gov.
“We’re trying to avoid having people show up and not having a court available, and then we have people around that may be integrating together and not social-distancing,” McLaughlin said. “The reservation needs to be in advance of arrival, even if that’s from the parking lot on your cellphone.”
McLaughlin said the city still was working on the possibility of league play at Northam but said the initial focus was to allow casual play and lessons.
“What is different is the focus is solely on play this year,” she said. “I know the Northam courts are very well known for their social activities.
“However, this is not the year for that. Right now, it’s you would pretty much play and then leave the facility.”
McLaughlin said park visitors will be asked to wear masks while in common areas of parks.
The city, which contracts Corvus Janitorial Systems for restroom cleaning at its parks, said those restrooms will be cleaned twice as week, as opposed to once. They also will be disinfected twice a week, and those practices could be increased either via contract or by city staff.
“It’s not just some general cleaning that we would have done on a regular basis, but door knobs, handles, gate-handle entrances would all be cleaned on a frequent basis,” McLaughlin said.
McLaughlin said capacities at facilities would be reduced to “allow for social-distancing within the provided spaces.”
While the moves represent the latest phase of plans to open city parks and rec facilities and programs, some facilities will remain closed, including:
*Upper Arlington Senior Center
*Amelita Mirolo Barn
*Basketball and hockey courts
“We think that it’s time to start opening up our facilities a little bit more, like our restrooms at parks, but there are other facilities – like the Barn, our facilities we rent – that really, it’s going to be more of a challenge,” Schoeny said. “It’s going to be governed by, ‘Is it responsible to rent a place to facilitate gatherings that are beyond the Ohio Department of Health orders?’ ”
McLaughlin said parks and rec staff will be assigned to monitor parks, much as they’ve done since April, to help enforce public health and safety guidelines.
“They rotate around the parks and try to enforce the rules,” she said. “We will continue this as we go through the next level of opening.”