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City adult recreation leagues have fallen victim to COVID-19.

City of Dubuque Recreation Division Manager Dan Kroger said on Thursday that Leisure Services’ adult summer sports programs have been canceled. The decision was made on Wednesday to pull the plug with organizers of the leagues unable to guarantee the safety of participants and staff from the coronavirus.

“They’re programs that are near impossible to social distance and control that environment,” said Kroger. “Through a recommendation from the (Centers for Disease Control) and other things the staff has been looking into, there’s no way of doing it safe and keeping it fun.

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“It’s a really tough decision. As recreation professionals, it’s especially hard for us to swallow. We’re always trying to figure out ways to provide services for the community. It’s not only the participants that are affected, but there’s seasonal staff that aren’t going to have jobs.”

Leisure Services runs multiple adult softball leagues, an outdoor volleyball league at Flora Park and a men’s outdoor basketball league at Comiskey Park. Kroger estimated that the decision to cancel adult rec leagues affects roughly 1,000 local participants.

The timing of the decision stems from the department’s desire to allow seasonal staff time to potentially find other employment. Kroger said there were just too many unknowns to date about the virus to wait much longer.

“We tried to allow as much time as possible to soak in information before making the decision, but it gets to the point where people have to be able to make decisions on their lives,” Kroger said. “There’s a lot of people that are affected… but when you look at the sheer safety aspect of programming, and that’s always going to be the number one thing on our mind, it’s very difficult in an adult athletics setting where social distancing, sanitation and the different things involved — you would have to almost change the game itself and the rules of play to make it possible.”

Kroger said his department is holding out hope to begin its fall adult leagues earlier than normal. Typically, fall softball leagues don’t start until the end of August. Kroger said staff is considering moving those start dates up a month to provide programming at the tail end of summer.

While leagues are canceled, not all of Leisure Services’ programs are affected. Kroger said the department is working on protocols to make various classes safer for participants and instructors. Measures such as moving indoor classes outside and keeping class levels to a 10-person maximum are under consideration.

Having worked in parks and recreation for 25 years, Kroger said he’s made a number of difficult decisions. He’s never confronted anything quite like what’s been presented by this pandemic.

“It’s like solving a puzzle with pieces that keep changing,” he said. “This one is hard to swallow. But it’s necessary and we’re looking forward to when we can get programming back to a new normal.”