Mesa will gradually put its toe into the water when reopening recreational facilities so that residents eventually can dive into pools and use some park facilities on a limited basis in June.
Though Gov. Doug Ducey last week let his stay-at-home order expire and allow pools, gyms and most other facilities be reopened under safe-distancing and other guidelines, Mesa officials are approaching the reopening of their facilities cautiously – partly because many of the staffers who would be manning them have been laid off in the face of dire revenue declines resulting from business closures.
For Mesa residents who want to work out at the Red Mountain Center or swim laps at the Skyline or Kino pools, that may be a welcome news, but they will encounter a very different experience in the ongoing pandemic than in the past.
A reservation will be required for these recreational pursuits. Residents will receive a one-hour time slot to work out, allowing time for staff to clean equipment before the next person can use it.
“We view this as a reservation system where you have to check in in advance and receive a time to come,’’ said Marc Heirshberg, Mesa’s parks, recreation and community facilities director.
“We are working to incorporate social distancing with the different pieces of equipment,’’ he said.
The first step will be reopening the Red Mountain facility on a limited basis June 1 – along with the Skyline and Kino pools, where reservations would be accepted to swim laps.
Teams would be allowed to practice, but not compete, at Skyline Aquatics Center.
The next step would be to add the Rhodes and Shepard pools, with reservations still required for swimming laps but open swims also added on a limited basis.
The same approach would be used after June 29 for baseball and soccer practices only, with competitive games, meets or tournaments not allowed.
“I am not recommending that games or tournaments occur,’’ Heirshberg said. “For drop-in basketball, I do not see that in the immediate future. Basketball is still seen as a contact activity.’’
But Heirshberg said he is hoping that fitness classes and summer camps can be restored, but on a much smaller scale, in July and August.
The classes and camps must be smaller to meet the CDC guideline limiting groups to less than 10 people.
He said the fitness class sizes would be limited to nine participants to each instructor.
The same policy would be followed in the summer camps.
“It will be one staff member for every nine children. They would be isolated in different groups,’’ Heirshberg said. While some children might participate in arts and crafts, the others might participate in a fitness activity.
Overall, the summer camps, highly valued by parents as day care for their children, would shrink in size from 150 or 200 children to a maximum of 32 children, Heirshberg said.
Beyond the health restrictions, the city’s budget for operating the recreation programs is greatly restricted by a decline in revenues, he said. Field trips would no longer be included.
“I do not see this summer returning to any of our regular programming,’’ Heirshberg said. “It will be very limited.’’
City Council members signaled that they agree with Heirshberg’s cautious approach, but they warned that any signs of an outbreak of COVID-19 would likely scuttle the reopening.
“Many of our residents rely on Mesa Parks and Recreation to maintain their health and wellness,’’ Mayor John Giles said, adding:
“Their closure has taken a toll on our community and I am encouraged by our plan to gradually reopen while implementing CDC guidelines on social distancing and sanitation to protect our employees and residents.’’
Mesa closed the facilities on March 15.
“What triggered all of this for us was the decision by the Governor,’’ City Manager Chris Brady said. “We were under tremendous pressure from all of these groups.’’
Council members Dave Luna and Jeremy Whittaker supported the gradual re-openings but both had reservations, while Council member Kevin Thompson said athletic organizations were anxious to have games.
“I think we have to take a measured approach,’’ Luna said. “We still have COVID. We have to protect our public.’’
Following are some details from Heirshberg’s re-opening plan. His presentation did not list any details about the planned reservation system, which would likely be announced at a later date:
Teams can start booking the Skyline Aquatics Complex for limited practices on May 26.
Limited rentals of sports fields for team practices will start June 1 but a social-distancing plan must be submitted in advance.
Jefferson, Broadway, Eagles and Webster recreation centers will open for modified summer camps on June 29.
Playgrounds, ramadas and splash pads will reopen June 1 and be cleaned every morning as usual. Residents would be warned to wash their hands after touching facilities.
Restrooms closed in smaller parks will be reopened after June 29 as the availability of cleaning supplies allows.
Additionally, a new curbside book checkout program – similar to what other library systems in the Valley are starting – will begin May 19 on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, 8-11 a.m.
Residents can order books online in advance online and pick them up in the same manner as similar grocery programs.
“There are still many residents who enjoy reading an actual book,’’ said Heather Wolf, library services director.