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What COVID-19 "Phase Three" means for youth sports, pools and beaches

Reopening guidelines don't necessarily mean game on, depending where you live.

MINNEAPOLIS — As Minnesota enters Phase Three of its COVID-19 reopening strategy, sports and other forms of outdoor recreation are set to return, depending on the city you live, sport you play or organization you belong to. 

Though the Minneapolis Parks Department previously announced that beaches would not be opening this summer, that doesn't exactly mean that they are closed.

During record high temperatures on Monday, beaches were full of swimmers.

"We wanted the kids to be able to play at the beach and have a good time today," said Olivia Eagan, who visited the beach with her family and friends. "It's the perfect day to be out here and enjoying the weather."

Minneapolis beaches are considered 'swim at your own risk' all summer from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Next week, the Parks Department will add buoys at popular swimming beaches. Bathrooms will remain closed, but portable toilets will be available and parks ambassadors will work to ensure groups use social distancing. 

Pools are another story. Though some cities, such as Eden Prairie, plan to reopen splash pads and other public pools in accordance with state guidelines in the next week, many will not. Minneapolis, St. Paul and Richfield all plan to remain closed through the summer. They cite a variety of reasons, including staffing issues, budget constraints and difficulties ensuring social distancing. 

"I think they should open the pools," Eagan said. "But it is going to be hard with social distancing to do that inside the pools."

The same uncertainty, applies to sports. Though Minneapolis has canceled youth sports camps and other recreational sports leagues, many organizations and cities are still coming up with plans. 

"We're getting into full swing now into baseball and softball," said David Devine, who has children who have started practice with St. Paul Highland Ball in the last week. "A couple days ago we got an email that they were going to move forward with their seasons. My wife and I then had a discussion, is it something we wanted to do, and it's kind of a risk/reward at this point. We feel if we do things right that we can keep everyone safe and have a little bit of a baseball season."

The state's new "Stay Safe Guidance for Sports" will help with some of the decisions parents and youth coaches are faced with. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, baseball, basketball and soccer are considered medium risk. Wrestling, football and karate are considered high risk.

Though both medium and high risk sports can now start practicing if they follow distancing and other precautions, games are still on hold. Highland Ball is counting on that changing in time to start a six-week season in July.

"From my understanding, at the traveling metro level there are some associations that are saying, 'This isn't the right year for us'," Devine said. "But I'm going to bet there are a lot of people out there, like us, that are excited to get out and play and have some fun."

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