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Play ball!

Sports complex reopens this weekend
Friday, May 22, 2020
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Leader photo by T. SCOTT BOATRIGHT

The Ruston Sports Complex will host a 27-team girls’ fast pitch softball regional tournament on Saturday and Sunday, marking the first time the complex will be used since the facility closed in March because of the statewide coronavirus stay-at-home orders.

The crack of the bat is returning to the Ruston Sports Complex.

Twenty-seven girls’ fast pitch softball teams will be in town this weekend for a USSSA Boot Up Super Regional NIT Tournament. The Saturday-Sunday tournament will be the first one at the complex since the facility closed in March because of the statewide coronavirus stay-at-home orders.

The teams of age 12-and-under players are from Louisiana and Texas.

All players, coaches and spectators who enter between 8:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. on Saturday will have their temperature checked. Anyone with a fever will be referred to an EMT on site and rechecked. If the fever persists, the individual will be asked to leave, said Ruston Administrative Services Director Jay Ellington.

The city is recommending that all players, coaches and spectators wear masks inside the complex. Grandstands will be closed for the tournament, and spectators will be asked to social distance with their lawn chairs.

Start times for the games will be staggered, as will use of the fields. That way games won’t be played immediately adjacent to another.

Based on the total number of fields — 24 — and the square footage of the complex — 5 million — anywhere from six to 12 fields can be in play and still remain with the required 25% capacity as set by Phase One guidelines for reopening the economy, Ellington said.

The city has added hand-sanitizing stations, and workers will be cleaning restrooms every hour. All Ruston Parks and Recreation and sports complex workers are required to wear masks, as are concessionaires, Ellington said.

But despite the precautions, the city anticipates fewer people will come to the games.

“We expect to have a lot less spectators as we go forward for a while,” Ellington said. “We just don’t think that many people will be traveling with these travel teams.”

This weekend’s tournament is expected to draw between 600 and 800 people.

The sports complex had originally planned to reopen last weekend, but the tournament fell through.

This weekend will “be a good look for us to see how this works,” Ellington said, referring to the adaptations made in light of the coronavirus.

“We think we have some things in place that hopefully make it work for the teams, as well as the people coming to watch,” he said.

Softball or baseball tournaments are scheduled at the complex three out of every four weekends of each month through November, Ellington said.

The complex was going to be the site of the Dixie All Star tournaments in July, but the Dixie organization has cancelled its 2020 season because of the coronavirus pandemic.