RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — An estimated 8,000 soccer players and spectators attended the North Carolina Football Club Youth Columbus Day Classic in Raleigh this weekend.
“It’s great for kids to be able to come out and play with meaning behind the game,” said NCFC Youth Tournament Director Bryan Bachelder. “It’s for sure exciting, quite honestly, to bring some sense of normalcy back to how life was before.”
While it may have felt like normalcy returned, the hand sanitizer stations and masks were reminders that it hasn’t.
Officials say 190 youth teams from the Carolinas and Georgia participated in the tournament.
Parents said they’re mindful about the risks, but felt comfortable with the safety precautions NCFC put in place.
“There’s always a concern, but the safety protocols that they have in place are so well defined and easy to follow,” said Eva Davis, who watched her two teen girls play in the tournament. “It’s fun to see a new way of doing things and that safety is a priority. Everyone is wearing their masks; it’s a little hard to cheer through a mask.”
Under Phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan, outdoor gatherings are still limited to 50 people, but sports tournaments are exempt from that restriction.
The NC Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) doesn’t recommend holding close-contact sports tournaments, but they are allowed, as long as they don’t exceed 100 people per field.
Bachelder explained, “We basically designate each field, and technically parent group, as its own space. So in this case, the parents are grouped together on one side of the field and players who are on the field are not counted within those guidelines.”
The NCFC posted safety guidelines at every field, and also asked parents to bring only one or two people per player.
“We space out the games to a pretty lengthy degree to make sure families have ample time to get in and out of the park to where there’s not a whole lot of crossover, much less, risk of exposure,” said Bachelder.
He added that the tournament helped breathe a little life into the tourism industry by filling 600 hotel rooms across 10 properties in the Raleigh area.
The next NCFC Youth tournament is scheduled for November.
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