Playing on sports fields remains prohibited throughout the province, despite growing calls from a wide variety of organizations and individuals, including Mayor Cam Guthrie, to see them re-open with safety protocols in place.
“I really hope that the province is reconsidering these regulations because they are having a negative effect on people,” Guthrie said. “It’s not just the youth, parents of youth, guardians of youth as well, it disproportionately affects those who don’t have a backyard to throw a ball around in.”
The ban on using sports fields came into effect April 8, when the provincial government instituted a stay-at-home order in hopes of helping slow the spread of COVID-19 in the face of rising numbers. That order initially included playgrounds as well, but that part of the order was removed within a couple days following backlash.
The stay-at-home order is currently scheduled to expire after May 19.
At this time of year, many organized summer sports organizations are typically preparing to get up and running for the season.
“We’re planning toward a real, meaningful baseball season,” said Jeff Hoffman, president the Guelph Minor Baseball Association (GMBA). “We plan on running all of our programs.”
Hoffman said house league registration is down about 25 per cent from pre-COVID-19 levels, but remains open in hopes of seeing more players.
While the GMBA isn’t calling for immediate access to diamonds, it will be ready to go when provincial regulations are lifted, said Hoffman noting registration fees will be fully refunded if the season is called off, though he doesn’t expect that to be necessary.
“Kids need to be active and outside,” he said, suggesting the natural spacing of baseball will help players and families to “shake off the impact of COVID-19” in a safe way. Pandemic protocols will also be in place.
“We know COVID-19 has had a big impact on kids’ mental health.”
Attempts to reach representatives of Guelph Soccer were not immediately successful.
Ontario Soccer recently issued an open letter to Premier Doug Ford calling for the ban on outdoor organized sports to be rescinded.
“Our member organizations in every corner of the Province have patiently supported the current stay-at-home order, to play our part in overcoming this third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, with every passing day that children are kept away from soccer pitches, baseball diamonds, basketball courts and other outdoor playing fields and facilities, a mental health crisis grows,” said CEO Johnny R. Misley and board chair Peter Augruso in the letter.
Guelph Soccer is set to begin its house league season on May 31.
In supporting calls to reopen outdoor sports fields, Guthrie points to the provincial COVID-19 science advisory table which opposes the ban.
He said he’s been hearing from frustrated families and youths regarding the rules.
“I can go to a dog park and I can throw the ball around with my dog but I can’t go to the park and throw the ball around with my little league baseball team for training for the kids,” Guthrie said, noting the city is bound by the provincial order and will enforce the rules as required.
Though sports fields, golf and Frisbee golf courses, tennis courts, baseball courts and skate parks are closed, trails, parks, outdoor play structures and off-leash dog parks are open.