Pecos Park pickleball

Like other non-contact athletic activities, pickleball is allowed at Pecos Park and games haven’t been impacted by the pandemic-related ban on team sports. Players Saturday enjoyed some time on the courts while team sports organizers blasted the city.

COVID-19 transmission in Ahwatukee continues to plummet and is now largely at levels indicating minimal or moderate spread, according to data released last Thursday by the Maricopa County Department of Public Health.

But when Pecos Park will be open for team sports is anybody’s guess as the city’s ban on those activities remains in effect and the agenda for City Council meeting scheduled for yesterday, March 2, had no action time for changing the prohibition.

The continuation of the ban – put in place by City Council last December – has infuriated the Arizona Soccer Association, which last week urged its supporters to write City Council members in protest.

“This action has significantly impacted the soccer community, our clubs, and the overall community and at this time enough is enough it’s time to open the field NOW!!!” it said on its website, calling on supporters “to call every councilmember EVERY DAY.”

“Currently the City of Phoenix is allowing the Suns to have fans in their arena,” it said. “They are allowing Spring Training to have fans. They have allowed significant events, with little oversight to continue to take place in West Phoenix, in Vice Mayor Guardado’s district. Remember it was Vice Mayor Guardado that made the motion to close all fields but has done nothing to address the hypocrisy in her own district.”

Supporters won’t get any grief from Ahwatukee Councilman Sal DiCiccio, who noted that he too has posted a “call to action” to reopen Pecos and the city’s other parks.

“There is currently no movement to open up the parks. At all,” he said. “There is no reason for professional teams to be treated differently than kids.”

He posted on social media an even more strident criticism: “Open up our fields to the kids to keep them healthy. Closing fields was one of the stupidest moves I’ve ever seen.”

The uptick in criticism of the city’s ban on team sports at Phoenix parks comes as the latest set of data shows that COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people dropped into the moderate range in 85048 and 85045. Only 85044 remained in the substantial spread level with 151 cases per 100,000.

All three ZIP codes are in the minimal spread level for percentage of new hospital visits with COVID-like symptoms.

Both 85044 and 85045 are in the moderate range for new positive test results while 85048 has fallen into the minimal spread range.

Ahwatukee’s metrics stand in contrast to the city at large, where cases per 100,000 and positive new test results remain in the substantial spread category, with 151 and 11 percent, respectively. Only the metric for hospital visits is now in the minimal spread category, the county data show.

But Ahwatukee’s metrics are similar to those in other East Valley communities, where schools have been open for five-day in-class learning since January.

Indeed, last week officials in the Higley Unified School District in Gilbert announced May dates for high school graduations in person. That district also is planning for proms and senior class awards assemblies.

The two school districts that serve Ahwatukee are set to reopen classrooms in less than two weeks.

Tempe Union is set to start four-day-a-week classroom learning March 15, with Wednesday an at-home learning day for all students so schools can be deep-cleaned.

Kyrene will reopen classrooms for five day-a-week learning March 16.

Kyrene spokeswoman Erin Helm said that district-wide, 56.5 percent of all students are signed up for in-person learning for the third quarter.

Helm said 7.8 percent are signed up for the year in its new Digital Academy and the remaining 35.7 are signed up for at-home learning for the third quarter. Parents are now being asked to choose between at-home and in-class learning for the fourth quarter.

Outside of team sports, Pecos Park has been open for most outdoor activities since fall.

The community center – a popular destination for indoor basketball, special physical education classes like Ahwatukee resident Carrie McNeish’s line dancing and exercise classes and senior citizen meetings – has been closed for almost a year. That includes the bathrooms.

Groups of 10 or less are permitted in Pecos and other city parks as long as individuals are spaced six feet apart, spectators are wearing masks or properly physically distanced. Groups are not allowed to stage full-contact games and activities​. 

Ironwood Library in Ahwatukee and the rest of the Phoenix library branches are closed, though curbside service is offered.

That also contrasts radically with

Ahwatukee’s neighbors. Libraries in Chandler Tempe and Mesa have been open for weeks, though limits exist on the number of patrons who can be inside at any one time.

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