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Convention Center, Events Center to soon host youth sports if air quality is undesirable

By Carla O'Day

Local youth sports programs will soon be able to use local indoor venues for games and practices when air quality is unhealthy, a measure that was approved Wednesday by the Reno Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority’s board.

The usage would be subject to availability and free of charge to the teams with an annual cost up to $150,000 to be subsidized by the RSCVA. Examples of associated cost would be utilities, security and time for staff members, which would be required to sanitize between various events.

Facilities would be the Reno-Sparks Convention Center, 4590 S. Virginia St., and Reno Events Center, 400 N. Center St.

“These are youth sports, and on this board we’ve talked about being philanthropic and reaching out to and trying to establish our community base and I feel this is a necessary move,” RSCVA chairman Bob Lucey said. “This is honestly for those teams that are not high school teams. These are for youth teams that have no indoor facilities.”

RSCVA attorney Ben Kennedy said a booking policy would need to be put in place, along with guidelines, eligibility and parameters of usage. Space at facilities would be subject to availability and be on a first come, first served basis. Facilities would not be augmented.

The convention center is currently housing evacuees from the Caldor Fire in one exhibit hall, although Lucey said the American Red Cross has asked to expand to a second.

“They would take priority,” Lucey said. “Obviously public safety in an emergency is priority in the convention center at this time.”

Once a booking policy is in place, ASM Global, which manages the convention and events centers, will help local youth sports teams get into the facilities when the air quality reaches unhealthy levels.

Board member Charlene Bybee questioned how teams can schedule practices and games in RSCVA facilities several days in advance when it’s unclear what the air quality index will be.

“Logistically, this is going to be a little tough,” Bybee said. “The AQI changes day to day. Today we might be good, tomorrow not so much…”

Lucey said some of the coaches he spoke with said they don’t have games and practices when the index gets above 130, which is in the mid-range of “unhealthy for sensitive groups.”

“I anticipate we’d work with the Environmental Protection Agency and [Washoe County] health district to identify if there’s going to be a major shift in smoke and air quality,” Lucey said.

Athletes can currently compete indoors without masks, although Lucey said the facilities would need to comply with state COVID-19 protocols, which include masking requirements for staff, spectators and other non-athletes. He also said efforts will be made to be sure more than one team won’t be practicing in the same area at the same time.

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