The City of Hendersonville and its Parks Department are electing to move forward amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hendersonville Parks Department Director Andy Gilley and his team have booked the city’s first exhibition game since March 16 as Field 3 will host a 19-and-under college baseball game on May 30 at 9 a.m.
“We could not be more excited to welcome people back to our parks,” Gilley told the Hendersonville Standard. “I understand there is a lot of anxiety and nervousness for people, but there are also people who are ready to play.”
Restrictions to limit crowds from gathering to create hotspots are at the top of Gilley’s list of things to tackle while also catering to the needs of those who want to play.
“Things will look different among the crowds,” he said. “We are committed to not only keeping people safe, but we are committed to letting people play the sport they love and get a sense of normalcy back in our city.”
Gilley cites that each league, tournament, or event that visits the parks will be required to submit their plan of handling practices, games, and spectators.
“Spectators could be field-specific,” Gilley said. “We have the fields with capabilities to bring your seat and sit along the fence and not have an obstructed view.”
The success of the next several weeks comes down to city leaders making the appropriate decisions, but it also comes down to residents adhering to common courtesy.
“I am hopeful everyone will do their part and keep doing what they have been doing in regards to social distancing,” he said. “As long as we are respectful towards one another and do what needs to be done, we will be fine.”
The Parks Department has already begun adding signage to keep people spaced at the restrooms and concession stands while adding hand sanitizer stations throughout the parks. They have also installed plexiglass to keep customers, and those in the concession stand at the appropriate distance.
While the next week will be positive in terms of moving forward, Gilley says that we still have a long way to go in terms of feeling back to normal.
“We will find out in July with our larger events just how far we have come,” he said. “A lot will depend on if our out of state teams will be allowed to come in. We are hoping that will happen because I think everyone needs it.”
According to Gilley, consumers will find the city has collected just $4,000 dollars in lodging tax compared to the $32,000 collected for the same time last year. Gilley also adds that sales tax is down $31,000 compared to the same time last year.
“Our city has used sales tax as a crutch for revenue for a long time, and we feel that pressure in the parks department,” Gilley said. “Times like this is when you realize how dependent you are on that money. This is why getting these events back are so important. Our parks have a huge economic impact on the entire city.”
Along with the college exhibition this Saturday, May 30, the parks will host a high school-aged baseball scrimmage on June 1 and will also begin Tennessee United Soccer practices June 1.
June 4-7 Drakes Creek will host two tournaments as an estimated 80 teams could visit the city.