Town Officials Eye June 22 Reopening of Playing Fields, with Restrictions

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The turf athletic fields at New Canaan High School. Credit: Michael Dinan

Town officials said last week that they’re working on a plan to reopen New Canaan’s playing fields, following state guidelines.

District and parks officials are hoping to start opening fields June 22, with several mandated restrictions, according to Recreation Director Steve Benko.

For example, player benches at the fields will be removed because six-foot social distancing is required and they would need to be disinfected after every practice or game, Benko told members of the Parks & Recreation Commission at their June 10 meeting, held via videoconference. 

“The same thing goes with the bleachers,” he said. “It says you must practice six-foot social distancing in the bleachers. Our bleachers, like at Mead at the baseball field, there are five rows. So you get eight people at that point for the whole bleacher section. And you have to disinfect the whole bleacher section after a game or after a practice. So it looks like those bleachers might get blocked off with some plastic athletic field fencing and we will have a some signs saying the bleachers are closed due to the COVID public rules.”

The comments come as New Canaan, like other Connecticut municipalities, adhere to Gov. Ned Lamont’s order regarding “Phase Two” of the state’s reopening plan amid the COVID-19 public health emergency. Under many restrictions and with capacity limitations, hotels, personal services, sports complexes, museums and social clubs are among those that can start reopening June 17. Pools also are part of the second phase reopening, and Benko during the meeting outlined plans for Waveny Pool.

Regarding the playing fields, Benko said he’s working with Public Works Director Tiger Mann, Parks Superintendent John Howe and New Canaan High School Athletic Director Jay Egan on a plan. Sports camps will be able to start some time after it’s in effect, he said. 

Commissioner Doug Richardson asked Benko whether a swim team would be able to practice at Waveny Pool. Benko said yes, though there will not be water polo this year “because it’s considered a high-risk sport” for spreading the virus. Swim teams will hold “virtual meets” where times are recorded separately and compared after events.

First Selectman Kevin Moynihan closed New Canaan parks March 30, and they reopened for trail-walking use only April 26.

Regarding the reopening of playing fields under the state guidelines, Benko said, “There are a lot of things that are interesting.”

“There are times of practices—if you have a team practicing, then you must allow 15 minutes until the next team comes on,” he said. “If you have two fields going, you have to allow a half-hour between games. So if both games are going at the same time, they don’t want people in the parking lots. It’s going to be interesting to see how everything works out and to put all of these moving pieces together.”

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