KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Hy-Vee Arena in Kansas City, Missouri, will be a hot spot for youth wrestling this weekend, and city leaders aren’t happy about it.
Starting Friday, Aug. 21, and running through Sunday, Aug. 23, the Rocky Mountain Nationals youth wrestling event will feature as many as 2,500 wrestlers aged kindergarten to 12th grade from as many as 40 different states.
Tommy Sevilla and his family are flying from Menifee, California, to Kansas City to watch their son Luke, 9, wrestle at the Hy-Vee Arena.
"Sports have been shut down and we've had to resort to looking to other states to compete," Sevilla told 41 Action News.
City and health leaders are raising concerns as the area continues to see an uptick in cases, something they wish they could've predicted three months ago when organizers got the green light. Now, they can't reverse course.
"It wasn't an easy decision. But since we would actually have to change our order to prohibit it, we decided that 'No, it will go on. They will do these extra precautions. We will monitor it,'" said Dr. Rex Archer, director of the Kansas City, Missouri, Health Department.
The city mandate doesn't require minors to wear a mask, but Archer said event organizers are making everyone who walks through the doors wear one regardless of age.
The Hy-Vee Arena can seat more than 8,000, but for this event, they're capping it at 1,000, according to Archer.
"Now we have no limit technically on indoor events, so a thousand limit is something that we're thinking about, so they're going to test that," Archer said.
A website promoting the event says everyone entering the arena will be required to wear masks. Competitors will be able to remove masks prior to their matches.
According to the RMN website, several COVID-19 safety precautions will be enforced, including asking participants to leave the building when they are done with the event.
Entry into the building will require a temperature check of all individuals, and anyone over “the designated safe temperature of 99-100 (degrees)” won’t be allowed in.
But those precautions were met with skepticism by city officials.
A spokesperson for Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Quinton Lucas said they don’t think the tournament complies with emergency orders put in place by Lucas.
Though there will be more foot traffic in the neighborhood, businesses want visitors to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
"We don't want to be the place that just wants to make money and throw caution to the wind. We're trying to be as safe as we can," said Christopher Ciesiel, owner of The Campground. "I really hope that those parents and kids are going to be doing the same."
The city plans to monitor the event closely and “will not hesitate” to issue a closure order if they spot any violations.
"We're very, very cognizant and cautious towards our children's health concerns. But at the same time, there's also a psychological and mental element that you also have to be concerned with and these kids can't be cooped up forever," Sevilla said.
41 Action News has reached out to the event organizers and will update this story with their comment when it is available.