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Leagues in Fort Myers denied access to public playing fields looking for answers from city officials

Posted at 12:35 AM, Jun 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-28 20:17:48-04

FORT MYERS, Fla. — UPDATE

We’re learning more information about some controversy surrounding sports leagues in southwest Florida being able to reserve time at public playing fields. Well after our first story aired Thursday, one woman reached out to share some issues she has been having with the City of Fort Myers.

Thursday we spoke with Miguel Vargas a frustrated softball coach who told us he has been getting the run around trying to schedule time at public playing fields in Fort Myers… despite witnessing the Southwest Florida Latin American Soccer League playing in what Vargas described as a tournament.

However, one woman who wanted to remain anonymous, associated with the Central America Soccer League says, she too noticed the same game taking place at Billy Bowlegs Park.

“I have noticed that no one is playing at all until Wednesday, I noticed that they were playing out there, and I was like okay they are opening the fields back up or what.” said the woman associated with the Central America Soccer League.

Telling me she’s reached out to the city to get answers but has been given the run-around.

“They cant answer any question about me renting Billy Bowleg to have a children league or an adult league. They told me I have to fill out paperwork and I have to send it off” she said.

I reached out to the city to get some answers, they replied in a statement saying.
“The city recreation division was contacted by the Southwest Florida Latin American Soccer League about their desire to utilize Billy Bowlegs field for practice. The criteria for all recreation partners is compliance with CDC guidelines (currently 25 people at a time or less) and having the league sign a hold harmless waiver, which was provided to the city by the individual requesting the reservation. The league scheduled a practice on June 24 at 7:30 p.m. at this time, anyone can reserve the field for practice purposes” said Stephanie Schaffer, city of Fort Myers, Public Information Officer.

The woman associated with the Central American Soccer League tells me she is tired and feels like giving up, and right now she just wants answers for her team.

“I think it’s not fair, it’s not fair that everyone is waiting to play get out of the house and play out there, and I understand what we're going through with this COVID 19 but we will follow the rules, of what each field is expecting you to do,” she said.

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Miguel Vargas captured images last night, showing what he says was is a tournament being played by the Southwest Florida Latin American Soccer League taking place at Billy Bowlegs Park.

“There’s not supposed to be lights on from what I was told. So I pull in just to check it out, and I walk right in. I mean Billy Bowlegs is gated, so the gate was open and I walk in with 20, 30 people, we walk in, we walk all the way to the back and there is an adult soccer league going on” said Miguel Vargas.

Miguel, a softball coach, says he and his league have been trying to reserve fields for approval of the city, but have been pushed to the side.

“I get nowhere, call after call, after call and I get pushed to the side. Oh I got to talk to this guy, oh I got to talk to that guy, this guy will call you back or I will call you back, it might not be today but it might be tomorrow” said Vargas.

Vargas tells me he submitted paperwork, complying with CDC guidelines such as social distancing.

“Well they sent me an email saying how I would keep people safe, and I sent them my guidelines of what I’m going to do. Hand sanitizer wipes, I even went and bought a temperature scanner for everyone to see if they are sick” said Vargas.

Vargas says he has yet to get an approval. We reached out to the City of Fort Myers who said in a statement,

“The city recreation division was contacted by the Southwest Florida Latin American Soccer League about their desire to utilize Billy Bowlegs field for practice. The criteria for all recreation partners in compliance with CDC guidelines (currently 25 people at a time or less) and having the league sign a hold harmless waiver, which was provided to the city by the individual requesting the reservation. The league scheduled a practice on June 24 at 7:30 p.m. At this time, anyone can reserve the field for practice purposes” said Stephanie Schaffer, City of Fort Myers, Public Information Officer.

Nonetheless, Vargas says, he has not yet stepped foot on a field in Lee County.

“We just want answers from the city and how they want us to run the softball league, tell us what to do to protect people and we’ll do it,” said Vargas.

The city says yes, you can use public fields for specifically practice purposes.