Madison asks for a hold on summer team sports

A BALLPLAYER practices batting at the practice facility located at Thue Field in Madison on Tuesday, a solo effort partly due to social-distancing efforts during the current COVID-19 pandemic. Madison officials have asked organizers to put a hold on team sports in city parks until June 1. The city will continue to review its restrictions this spring.

The city commissioners discussed on Monday how municipal staff members should handle public use of city facilities, such as ball diamonds, the city recycling center and Downtown Armory, during the coming months, and Madison officials leaned toward maintaining social distancing during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Mike McGillivray, parks supervisor, told the Madison City Commission that individuals had asked him about using municipal ball diamonds for organized baseball and softball games this spring. During April, parks personnel taped off playground equipment in the parks and commissioners asked that the public not use Madison's parks for large gatherings or play groups.

Commissioner Kelly Johnson, who has oversight of city parks, suggested that Madison officials close parks for organized sports and other recreational groups until June 1, but city officials would review the parks policy during the next 60 days. Johnson suggested that families or other small groups could use the city parks for activities such as playing catch. City officials have advised area residents to keep their social groups to 10 persons or fewer and use social-distancing practices.

The commissioners were told that sports league organizers were interested in ordering uniforms and equipment for summer ball games. They were also told that some residents were interested in holding summer competitions.

Commissioner Bob Thill asked for the opinion of the city's Parks and Recreation Board. McGillivray replied that the majority of board members currently leaned toward closing the parks to large events.

Johnson reminded the commissioners that, weeks ago, they had advised the public not to use park playgrounds.

McGillivray said the parks and rec board had scheduled its next meeting for mid-May. It was suggested that the city commissioners review any suggestions made by the board members.

Johnson advised that area residents should place a hold on organized summer sports until at least June 1.

The Community Center

Nicholas Hansen, director of the city-university wellness center, spoke to the commissioners about reopening The Community Center, with restrictions, on May 4. The joint city of Madison-Dakota State University facility was closed in late March.

Hansen outlined the restrictions that center members will need to follow to use the facility:

-- An appointment schedule with each member limited to a 50-minute block of time for exercise.

-- Groups limited to 10 persons per hour.

-- Late arrivals will have the lost time cut from their exercise time.

-- Individuals feeling ill will need to stay out of the building.

-- The staff will perform additional cleaning.

-- The facility will not hold group exercise classes or provide day-care for children.

-- The staff will not accept guest passes or walk-in patrons.

Commissioner Jeremiah Corbin said he was comfortable with the reopening plans. David Jencks, city attorney, noted that The Community Center board members appear to have the authority to direct the facility's reopening plans.

Commissioner Mike Waldner noted that the center's staff should stay on alert to any COVID-19 cases related to the wellness facility. Waldner said the wellness facility should shut down if a COVID-19 patient is connected to the center, and the staff should immediately conduct cleaning efforts.

City outdoor pool

Johnson told city officials that the Madison Parks and Recreation Board had recommended last week that the city not open the municipal outdoor swimming pool located in Westside Park this summer. Johnson said the board members held "a good discussion" during their meeting, assisted by McGillivray and Laurie Bunker, aquatics coordinator at the city's wellness facility.

Johnson noted that other South Dakota cities, including Spearfish and Sioux Falls, did not plan to open their community swimming pools this summer. Many other communities in the state were also inclined not to open their community swimming pools.

Johnson said the Madison Aquatics Center, the city's outdoor pool, currently had no coordinator to manage the facility, partly due to the current pandemic. He noted that health officials continue to believe that South Dakota has not yet reached its peak number of COVID-19 patient infections. Johnson said possible transmission spots at the swimming pool could include the concession stand, poolside lounge chairs and the pool's decking.

Mayor Marshall Dennert said he supported the closure of the Madison Aquatics Center. Johnson was asked about a possible late opening, possibly on July 1, but city officials did not make any commitments toward a late opening.