County reopens covered play courts in Pahoa, Panaewa and Waimea

The county Parks and Recreation Department on Tuesday announced the reopening of its open-air covered play courts in Pahoa, Panaewa and Waimea.

The facilities will be available for scheduled, organized recreation activities, and reservations are required. Unscheduled and walk-in uses will not be allowed until further notice.

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“As we continue to evaluate reopening our facilities in a safe manner, we are taking the next step of opening these three covered play court facilities specifically because they have an open-air design,” said Parks and Recreation Director Maurice Messina.

The covered play courts at Panaewa Park and Pahoa District Park reopened Monday, and Waimea District Park’s play court, which is currently being utilized as a Resilience Learning Hub, will reopen Monday, May 3.

Randy Apele coaches basketball club teams called Hoop Dreams. The varsity boy’s team will begin practicing at the Panaewa court this week.

“This will be our first practice since last March,” Apele said. “The players are all really excited to get back to practice, and so am I.”

Apele said that each team will only be allowed to use the court once a week, so everyone has a chance to get a practice in.

“Teams on the mainland have already been practicing through the pandemic, so some of us in Hawaii are far behind other teams,” Apele said. “We’re glad we will have a chance to catch up and prepare for games this summer.”

The county is only allowing teams to practice with drills to limit the amount of contact between players.

“We have to change the way we do things a bit, but this will give us a chance to focus on skill development,” Apele said. “Hopefully, with time, we’ll be able to incorporate more contact during practices.”

The Panaewa facility will only be open to teams that have reserved court times from 3-6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Reservations for individuals are not currently available.

“We have accommodated our times for 18 different teams throughout the week,” said Aukai Wong, Panaewa Park director. “Each slot will be an hour and a half with a 30-minute break for sanitization between teams.”

The open-air court will have a capacity of 25 people. Masks are required, and temperatures must be taken at the door.

“We’re all so thankful to the mayor and the county for making this happen,” Wong said. “We hope it’s a step toward opening full time.

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“We’re just happy to see the kids get back in the gym and back to normal.”

Email Kelsey Walling at kwalling@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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