UPDATE: This article has been modified to say Oswego County Chairman James Weatherup did not grant approval as he saw it was not his decision to make, but instead, the state’s. Weatherup has been advocating for the event. At this time, the event is still happening the weekend of June 27.
OSWEGO, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — A baseball tournament in Oswego has the go-ahead from local leaders despite state COVID-19 guidelines saying the contrary.
The tournament scheduled the weekend of June 27 is the first one of the year for “Champions Events” and will feature just over a dozen teams, most from Central New York. Like many small businesses, owner Justin Arsenault says the pandemic has nearly put “Champions” out of business.
“You either run and do it the right way and try and recoup the losses that you have incurred through the whole thing or you go under,” Arsenault said.
Based on earlier guidance from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Office and falling cases across Central New York Arsenault had been planning to open “Champions Event” in Phase Four of the state’s reopening plan.
He submitted a ‘NY Forward’ to the state as many businesses have but never received further guidance. When the timelines for in-person sports changed he started working with Oswego County leaders.
“We’re not here trying to be a rebel, we’re not just saying we’re going to play everyone come on in. We’re trying to do the best we can. We’ve made the personal investment to make sure that this event runs smoothly and people feel safe,” said Arsenault.
According to state guidelines issued on June 18, tournaments that don’t require travel aren’t allowed to take place until July 6, but after seeking local assistance and help with planning a compliant tournament – Oswego Mayor Billy Barlow gave him the green light, said Arsenault.
The tournament however won’t be happening without some increased health and safety measures.
“We have spent thousands of dollars on PPE equipment, safety equipment. The county and city have been excellent to work with, they know we’re doing everything we can to be able to operate under this COVID-19 umbrella,” Arsenault said.
Like most public areas Arsenault added an assigned staff member that will enforce social distancing, masks will be required, spectators will be limited to two per player and temperature checks will be administered to players and umps.
Scheduling is also tight to make sure teams can play and leave as fast as possible.
“By operating this weekend we’re putting ourselves in jeopardy too,” said Arsenault. “But it comes to a point where we run or we close and we’re going to do everything we can to make sure we’re doing this the right way.”
While this is the first tournament of the year Arsenault just hopes it sets a positive example for others hoping to hit the diamond soon.
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