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WATCH NOW: Smith River Sports Complex hosts first tournament since start of coronavirus pandemic

WATCH NOW: Smith River Sports Complex hosts first tournament since start of coronavirus pandemic

From the Martinsville-region COVID-19/coronavirus daily update from state, nation and world: July 12 series
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Smith River Sports Complex hosted a lacrosse tournament this weekend.

In any other summer that wouldn’t be a big deal. The complex hosts more than a dozen tournaments of various sports every year. However, after the coronavirus shut down the sports world more than three months ago, the complex hasn’t fielded a single organized game since March 8.

About two weeks ago, Ira Vanterpool, director of boys lacrosse with the NC Fusion, a program based out of Winston-Salem, N.C., called the complex about wanting to move a previously scheduled lacrosse tournament to Henry County. The Fusion had been practicing for about a month and a half under U.S. Lacrosse’s return to play guidelines, which included things like all coaches wearing masks on the field, players remaining 6 feet apart during training and water breaks, wearing masks to and from the field, sanitizing their hands before and after workouts, and having no contact during practices. But they hadn’t been able to play any games.

Vanterpool said the Fusion originally had some teams scheduled to travel to Philadelphia this weekend, with others set to host a tournament in Winston-Salem. With North Carolina pushing back its own reopening timeline, hosting a tournament was out of the question, and Vanterpool wanted to be able to allow his players to play a game without the added stress of traveling far.

That’s when he made the call to SRSC Director of Operations and Marketing Houston Stutz about moving the tournament to Henry County. Virginia had gone into Phase 3 of coronavirus reopening the day before.

The Fusion brought about 20 teams to the complex on Saturday, all youth and middle-school-aged, and will bring 21 more on Sunday, all high school-aged. Vanterpool said he received numerous calls from other teams wanting to join as well, but he turned them away to keep this weekend small and ensure social distancing wasn’t an issue.

Vanterpool and Stutz worked together to come up with safety protocols for the event, which included masks and distancing.

“All of them have done a really good job with it. It’s good to see people are taking it seriously,” Stutz said of the response to the safety protocols.

“It comes to a point where we have to strictly enforce some rules … but other than that everyone has been very gracious and thankful that we’re doing it,” Vanterpool said. “They’re happy to follow the rules we’ve set in place. We’ve got a couple stragglers, a couple outliers, but they understand if we ask them to put on a mask, put on a mask. That’s the most important thing we feel, especially if we have young kids around. We want everyone to be as comfortable and safe as possible.”

The Fusion will have a video streaming service available for Sunday’s game for parents and fans to watch the games online and keep the crowds down.

“That’s been a really cool way to say, ‘Stay home, stay safe, don’t be out here if you don’t need to be,’” Stutz said.

Stutz said the complex provided about 10 staff members for the weekend, which is about the same as other tournaments. But instead of having a big staff preparing food in the concession stand many were instead on cleaning duty throughout the day. The Fusion also brought their own staff to help police the crowds.

“We’re just trying to provide some activity for the teams that have been training … and who have lost the summer,” Vanterpool said. “It was getting tough but we all wanted to do it in a responsible way. We felt us being together and putting on an event that we could control was a better option than having to go to an event that was out of our control.”

“It’s really good to get people back out here. It’s exciting,” Stutz said. “It’s a nervous time but it’s an exciting time. Seeing everybody back out here enjoying our facilities and enjoying the fields. I could’t tell you how many compliments we’ve received.

“Obviously we‘re doing everything we can so people can continue to be out here in these crazy times so that’s good. It’s been organized chaos. We’ve got a lot of people running in a lot of directions to make sure these things do stay safe and we’re working on a schedule each hour to make sure everything is taken care of to the T.”

Cara Cooper is the sports editor of the Martinsville Bulletin. You can reach her at (276)638-8801 ext. 241.

Cara Cooper is the sports editor of the Martinsville Bulletin. You can reach her at (276)638-8801 ext. 241.

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