Football at park put on hold

A motion to allow football at city park, based on the Holly Springs School District’s Fall Sports COVID-19 Safety Plan, passed the board of aldermen 4-1 and was then vetoed by Mayor Kelvin Buck.

During the regular board meeting September 1, conducted via Zoom, alderman Tim Liddy made a motion to approve the school district’s plan. It included two persons per participant allowed to attend games and a waiver submission from all attending and participating. Christy Owens seconded. Mark Miller and Bernita Fountain also voted in favor. Lennell Lucas opposed.

Mayor Buck sent aldermen an official letter the next day, September 2, noting he had vetoed the board’s decision. The city owns the park, which is where Holly High has long played its home football games. “I do not think it is a good time to start playing football,” Buck said. “It’s just not a good idea due to the concern I have for everyone’s safety (during the coronavirus pandemic). All that we, as a city, have been doing is related to that.”

Holly Springs High School’s season-opener was originally scheduled for Sam Coopwood Park this past Friday night, but that game was moved to Corinth.

The mayor and board are expected to revisit the issue during their next meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 15.

The Hawks’ next scheduled home game is Friday, Sept. 25, versus Kosciusko.

Gov. Tate Reeves has OK’d high school football with attendance limitations and guidelines, which continue to be updated.

Several aldermen agreed to comment on their votes concerning football at city park.

Ward 2 alderman Lennell Lucas said his reason for voting against use of the stadium is he feels like schools are going back in session a little bit too soon.

“And we are headed into the flu season and we would be allowing those boys to play who may not know who they are coming in contact with,” he said.

“The main thing is I don’t want the blood of anybody’s child on my hands. I have to live with myself. I hold this position (as alderman) very highly and feel I need to protect the safety of the citizens I serve.”

Alderman Miller added his position on his vote.

“We voted to follow the governor’s guidelines and participants and spectators have to sign a waiver to get in,” Miller said.

“On the other hand, if a bus load of people wanted to come and shop at Walmart, we wouldn’t tell them no. Picking and choosing (who to limit) is not right. Why do we try to regulate sports when we have the state guidelines (to follow)? We’ve never prevented them from playing before.”

Miller continued.

“I know COVID is serious, but at the same time, I’m not going to let it run my life,” he said. “I’m for shopping and working and playing. If I get it, I get it. I know it is dangerous and we have to be careful, but I hope it doesn’t make us shut-ins.”

Miller said Buck “wants to protect us.”

“And I appreciate that. Decisions are hard to make, and he’s the one who has to take the consequences. Whatever he does, he is going to make somebody mad at him.”

Fountain explained her vote to allow football at Sam Coopwood Park.

“I was very torn with that vote,” she said. “I think the city took aggressive measures to keep the city safe in preventing the spread of the virus.

“I have to put my trust in the school and the parents to make the best decisions for the children. I’m confident the school is taking precautions to keep both athletes and spectators safe. It’s hard for me to deny our children when I have a child actively participating in sports (in college) right now, and it was a decision he and I had to make.”

Alderman Christy Owens weighed in on her reasoning to vote for playing at the park.

“I voted yes to let them play in the stadium because other schools are moving forward with opening up and resuming their fall sports,” Owens said. “Some of these young people may be on the eligibility path for a college education (scholarships).

“We’ve always worked in partnership with the school district over the use of the facilities and if the superintendent and her board allow the sports to take place this fall, I don’t want to stand in the way for that.

“They (the school district) have a safety plan and I think with safety precautions, it could be a successful football season.”

Alderman Tim Liddy said he voted for the measure because the state, the Mississippi High School Activities Association and the school district have worked out a safety plan.

“I don’t see why they shouldn’t play in the facility,” he said.

He added that Tuesday, Sept. 1, Gov. Tate Reeves had updated his executive order, increasing attendance to 25 percent of venue capacity.

Liddy preferred the original plan of the governor — two guests of each participant (player or cheerleader) be allowed in the stadium.

“We decided we would make this more restrictive than the state,” Liddy said. “The actual capacity of the stadium at Sam Coopwood is unknown. We did this to make it more restrictive with the two guests per participant, maximum. The capacity for Sam Coopwood Park is not established and 25 percent could be an unlimited number of people.

“I made the motion because I wanted them to be able to play. But the school needs to do their part to do all the safety precautions.”

Holly Springs South Reporter

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Holly Springs, MS 38635
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