After hearing how Rockmart’s recreation department planned to attempt to hold youth sports this fall in the wake of COVID-19, the Rockmart City Council made the decision to cancel this upcoming season’s activities.
The decision, made at the Aug. 11 council meeting, also impacts Rockmart Little League Baseball, which uses fields owned by the city.
The vote was unanimous and comes as sign-ups for fall sports were scheduled to to end Aug. 15. Rockmart Recreation Director Jeff Hulsey posted a message on Facebook shortly after the decision by the city council.
“They are looking out for our children and the grandparents. Tomorrow we will start the hard process of refunding the entry form money. Once again we are very sorry and miss our kids,” the post said.
The city of Rockmart sponsors youth football, cheerleading, softball and soccer during the fall months. City council members said they would look at possibly holding youth basketball in the winter if COVID-19 numbers get better.
Rockmart Little League Baseball posted on Facebook that the city had informed the group it will not be able to play games at the Nathan Dean Sports Complex, which is owned by the city. However, the organization’s board voted to continue plans for a fall season primarily using Legion Field.
While he acknowledged the fluid situation of trying to play sports during the current pandemic, Hulsey said the department was prepared to recommend new protocols for spectators at games, such as multiple entry and exit points, waiving a gate fee to avoid lines, and enforcing physical distancing.
City Manager Jeff Ellis said he had consulted Gov. Brian Kemp’s executive order concerning gatherings and Robert Monroe with the city’s attorney firm of McRae, Smith, Peek, Harman and Monroe, LLP about holding fall sports.
He said the city attorney’s opinion is there is still a risk of the city being held liable if a child or a spectator got sick from COVID-19 and advised them not to move forward with fall sports.
“You guys put a lot of effort into this and it hurts my heart because I want the kids to play,” Councilman Marty Robinson said. “Part of me says I don’t care about the liability, go out and let them play. But the other part worries that if we open up sports and allow kids to get sick, that would weigh heavily on me.”
Councilwoman Lucile Harris echoed the sentiments of many council members that it would be good for kids to have a way to play sports, but the complications of dealing with a virus that is still evident in the community calls for caution.
“I think I know what we all want, and I think we all want the same thing. But we are dealing with a silent killer,” Harris said. “These kids just started back to school and they are dealing with this there. Do we want to add to that?”
The decision came on the same day it was revealed that Cedartown High School’s football team has halted practices and will not play their scheduled season opener at Carrollton on Sept. 4 after three players tested positive for COVID-19.
The players will have to remain in quarantine for 10-14 days before returning to practice if they show no symptoms. The team will then have to go through an acclimation period before playing a game.