Live sports have been back in Tucson for months now, with spectators banned due to coronavirus precautions.
But some won’t stay away. Pima County officials have had to hire private security to break up small gatherings of fans who watch through the fences at Kino Sports Complex. The guards are also monitoring some of the more popular viewing areas.
Kino’s security staff will also “advise” people who aren’t wearing facemasks or are gathering in groups of more than 10, said Reenie Ochoa, director of the Pima County Stadium District, which operates Kino Sports Complex.
The Arizona Department of Health Services said Tuesday that Pima County is at substantial risk for spreading COVID-19, noting that more than 100 of every 100,000 residents are testing positive for the virus.
“We definitely know that not having spectators is not an ideal situation, and no one is more anxious to get back to having throngs of people inside the gates than the Kino Sports Complex staff is,” Ochoa said. “However, right now it’s the difference in being able to have youth and adults playing without spectators or not playing at all.”
County guidelines prohibit gatherings of more than 50 people in designated areas.
“With two teams, regardless of the sport, and adding officials, coaches and tournament personnel, that puts us right at or near the 50-person limit,” Ochoa said. “Thus no spectators.”
Last Saturday afternoon, dozens of fans gathered outside the fence surrounding Kino Sports Complex to watch a youth baseball tournament. They brought their own lawn chairs, umbrellas and in one case, a tailgate tent, but for the most part stayed within their own groups.
Just off Interstate 10 approaching the Kino Parkway/Ajo Way exit, a small group of girls huddled under a brightly colored beach umbrella tucked up against the fence. The fan presence increased after exiting the freeway, with cars parked in the dirt lot approaching the entrance to the stadium, and the majority of the spectators lined up along Forgeus Ave.
The draw? A baseball tournament that occupied five of Kino Sports Complex’s eight available fields.
FC Tucson, which plays at Kino North Stadium, has been live-streaming its home games on ESPN+ and holding drive-in watch parties at El Toro Flicks downtown. Local baseball tournaments have also gone the live-streaming route, a move that allows parents to watch their kids play from their cars, homes or — for visiting teams — hotel rooms. The indoor viewing option was “much appreciated” during Tucson’s hottest summer ever, Ochoa said.
Teams and parents are briefed on Pima County Health Department guidelines before their arrival at Kino Sports Complex. That hasn’t stopped fans who are well-acquainted with the facility from watching from outside Kino.
Ochoa said the county does “not advertise or encourage people to do this.”
“If security feels that it is a situation that warrants contacting law enforcement, they may do so,” she said.
Kino Sports Complex will host baseball events later in the month, and has occasional evening events scheduled. Some of the fields are being closed for overseeding and maintenance.
Contact reporter Caitlin Schmidt at email@example.com or 573-4191. On Twitter: @caitlincschmidt
Concerned about COVID-19?
Sign up now to get the most recent coronavirus headlines and other important local and national news sent to your email inbox daily.