Local athletes will be back on the field as soon as Monday, after the Nogales City Council approved a move to reopen municipal ballfields at a Dec. 2 meeting.
The reopening of city baseball and soccer fields comes with significant limitations: practicing only, with no more than 10 people (including coaches) on the field at a time.
Councilman Jorge Maldonado, who proposed the reopening, said that kids want to get back on the fields. “They’re all looking to come out, they’re all wanting to come out,” he said at last Wednesday’s meeting.
Maldonado added that Nogales teams have been traveling to Sahuarita and other cities to play games and tournaments while local fields remain closed.
A few elected officials sounded a cautious tone about the move, though the seven-member council ultimately voted unanimously to approve the reopening.
“I don’t want to make a decision right now that, later on, I’m going to regret,” said Mayor Arturo Garino.
Councilman Marcelino Varona, Jr. said the city had made $10,000 available to both soccer and baseball programs for costs related to COVID-19 safety.
Marcel Bachelier, the city’s parks and recreation director, said that enforcing the safety precautions detailed in the reopening plan could be difficult. “I just think that this is going to be challenging,” he said.
But Councilman Jose “Joe” Diaz said that the council’s action ultimately allows families to choose whether or not to put their kids on the field. “I would say, let the parents make the decision,” he said.
The Dec. 14 date was set after Bachelier said the fields would normally have opened up then after winter seeding.
Maldonado had twice proposed reopening the fields back in October, a month in which COVID-19 infections in the local area were rising at a relatively slow pace. But the council narrowly rejected the idea both times, saying that safety measures would be difficult to enforce and it would pose a risk to the community.
Last week, while new COVID-19 cases headed towards new heights, the council said it didn’t seem like keeping the fields closed was doing much good, either.
“Even if we don’t open up the parks, the numbers are continuing to go up anyway,” Councilman Hector Bojorquez said. “It’s not because of Little League, it’s because of the other people that don’t follow the CDC guidelines or that don’t mask up.”