Eight months after Palestine closed the Palestine Athletic Complex, city officials continue to seek ways to make the complex ADA-compliant. Meantime, however, Little League baseball is cancelled for this season.
The athletic complex on the north side of Palestine, which closed in September, violates provisions of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. The ADA requires public accommodations to be accessible to people with disabilities.
To bring the 29-acre complex into compliance, virtually everything, including fields, lights, dugouts, parking lots, bathrooms, and bleachers need to be replaced, Mayor Steve Presley told the Herald-Press.
That could cost millions of dollars, which the strapped city, reeling from the effects of COVID-19, does not have.
In the federal civil rights suit brought against the city last June, resident Michael Ivy said people with disabilities did not have equal access to the complex because of its design. Ivy's suit was dismissed in late December, without prejudice, by District Judge Jeremy Kernodle.
Even so, the city must address the accessibility issues the suit raises, before it can reopen the fields for football, baseball, and softball competition.
In January, Palestine City Manager Leslie Cloer said that, for the complex to re-open, the city needed to have a master plan in place to fix the ADA issues, including ramps and restrooms, with a timeline and budget..
Before COVID-19 practically shut down Palestine in April, the city had planned to finish renovating the athletic complex by May, in time for the start of Little League practices, said Chris Holman, chairman of the Palestine Youth Athletic Association.
Holman said, however, PYAA needs direction from the city. “We're dependent on what the city wants to do.” he said.
Before COVID-19, the city had two engineering firms bidding on ADA renovation work. One firm gave a cost estimate in early March. The other didn't bid, due to disruptions caused by the coronavirus.
Presley said the city will not move forward until both companies submit bids. The city will then face the challenge of raising money for the renovations.
“We're going to be down a lot of funding because sales tax revenue is going to fall precipitously,” Presley said.
Meanwhile, however, youth sports for younger children at other venues will continue.
Palestine's YMCA has changed its start dates for T-Ball and Tiny Tots leagues. Practice is set to begin on Monday, May 18. The YMCA is still taking applications for interested parents. Tiny Tots is for kids, ages 3-4; T-Ball is for children, ages 5-6.