After deciding to cancel city-sponsored fall youth sports earlier this year, the Rockmart City Council approved a motion to hold youth basketball this winter at its monthly business meeting last Tuesday.
The move comes as people become more accustomed to going out in public during the COVID-19 pandemic and are more familiar with safety guidelines set by the state and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Rockmart City Manager Jeff Ellis proposed the idea during the council’s work session prior to its business meeting, adding that he has worked with the recreation department and the city’s lawyers at McRae, Smith, Peek, Harman & Monroe, LLP, to come up with the proper sanitation, health and physical distancing guidelines in order to make the youth basketball season a reality.
“Things really haven’t changed much in terms of COVID, but everything around us has started opening up a little bit more,” Ellis said. “I think we’ve fought this thing in the best interest of our community. The numbers are declining. It’s slow, but they are declining.”
Rockmart Fire Chief Todd Queen, who has monitored the new coronavirus for the city since the start of the pandemic, said he has seen a significant drop in the number of cases reported per day in Polk County since August and September, adding that corresponds to what Polk School District is seeing as well.
The council voted unanimously to hold youth basketball and to allow residents to rent its city-owned facilities again — including the Nathan Dean Community Center, The Depot building and the Women’s Club House — starting Nov. 1.
More details on sign-ups will be revealed at a later date, but Ellis said they expect to begin registration on Nov. 2 with the first games beginning around Thanksgiving and the season getting into full swing the first of December.
Council members responded positively to the idea, with many adding that they would be open to allowing groups to use city-owned athletic fields as long as they complied with state COVID-19 regulations.
“When we decided to shut down fall recreation, we did so because we didn’t want it to create a problem for schools in case there was an outbreak,” Rockmart Mayor Sherman Ross said. “I don’t have that concern now, and I strongly feel that we need to give kids a chance to participate in a sport and play basketball.”
Ellis said some of the guidelines for recreation basketball games would include having parents of players sign a special waiver, staggering seating on both sides of the recreation gym at the former Rockmart High School, clearing the gym between games each night, and using recently purchased ultraviolet disinfecting machines overnight in both the gym and lobby area.
“With that type of cleaning, as well as the sanitization of the bench areas in between games, I don’t see why basketball can’t go on,” Ellis said.
The implementation of the guidelines and organization of the season will be done so under a new recreation director as Ellis reported that Jeff Holstein will be promoted from inside the recreation department.
Holstein, a graduate of Rockmart High School, has worked in the recreation department for six years.
“Jeff has been with the recreation department for a while,” Ellis said. “The more we thought about it, the more we realized this route would give Jeff an opportunity and have a positive impact on the rest of the staff to grow that department for the future.”
Rockmart had been searching for a new recreation director since August when Jeff Hulsey stepped down after 17 years at the helm to take the same position with the city of Cedartown.