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Online petition asks for change to county mandate barring sports spectators

Ambrocio

An online petition asking that parents be allowed to watch their children’s games and practices in Maui County reached 1,600 signatures on Wednesday afternoon.

The change.org petition titled “Let Parents Watch Their Kids Play Sports with Mask Wearing and Social Distancing Outdoors” was created by Aaron Ambrocio of Pukalani last week.

Ambrocio is a father of 14- and 10-year-old boys. His older son Landen is a freshman at Baldwin High School who is currently playing football for the Kulamalu Cowboys 14 unlimited team in the Maui Pop Warner league.

The Maui Pop Warner league is set to open with three games on Saturday. The Maui Interscholastic League is set to resume sports practices on Monday and Landen Ambrocio plans to be at Baldwin’s first football practice.

“I have older kids, too, so I have about 12 years of watching my kids play sports — I’ve always been there,” Ambrocio said. “The families that were joining with us in the same league, they’ve been there from Day 1, too. We’ve always been watching the games and we always get together and whatnot. And we also do flag football and flag football was doing fine, social distancing and we went through so many seasons with no cases. We went through two whole seasons with no problems, doing social distancing, wearing masks and everything was fine.

“Now that my son is getting into high school — he’s quite an athlete, so I’m more into his sports. Now, we can’t even watch their practices or watch the games.”

Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino said Wednesday he has not received the petition yet, but has plans to reevaluate the the county’s “Safer Outside” initiative on Sept. 30. The initiative, which prohibits fans from attending games along with restrictions on restaurants and bars, started last week in response to rising COVID-19 case numbers in the county.

“I didn’t know about this petition — it hasn’t arrived at my desk yet. If it has, I have not seen it,” Victorino said via phone Wednesday. “And so I’d rather look at the petition and talk to my legal people before I address it.”

Victorino pointed out that “I have kept sports open longer than any of the other counties. First of all, it’s not about the parents, it’s about the kids having their time to enjoy themselves. I understand as a parent how it is not to go to the game or not. … Right now, the numbers are still concerning. … My heart is for the children and MIL and everything and I want kids and parents to enjoy themselves.”

Victorino said he is encouraged by the COVID-19 numbers that have somewhat leveled off in recent days.

“My response to this right now is, ‘I’ll look into it, I’m watching the numbers, the positivity rates, the hospitalization (rates),’ which are all leveling off, here and in the rest of the state,” Victorino said. “I’ll consider it. I said as of September 30th I’d be looking at everything once again and make a decision and say, ‘Hey, I would like to see what I can do to continue to open up the areas where families can enjoy themselves.’

“Right now, I’m not prepared to answer it for the specifics of what the petition said. … We’re here to do the right thing to protect the community’s well-being and safety. It’s one big package when it comes to the health, safety, and the well-being of our community.”

Ambrocio said he is somewhat encouraged by the plan to reevaluate the current “Safer Outside” initiative soon. The plans being discussed for live streaming of MIL events has him even more optimistic.

“That would be good, even that would be good,” Ambrocio said. “They were talking about it on the MIL side, and I mean that’s fine, but Pop Warner or any outside leagues, there’s no talk about it.”

Ambrocio plans to be at his son’s Pop Warner game on Saturday morning at The Pit field in Keopuolani Park. The game is slated to start at 8:30 a.m. and parents have been told they can watch from their cars in the upper parking lot.

Ambrocio said there are 11 players on the Cowboys’ roster of 26 that are high school freshmen, from Kamehameha Maui, Baldwin and Maui high schools.

If there is no junior varsity play in the MIL this season, as has been widely speculated, Ambrocio said his son will stay with the Cowboys rather than be part of the Baldwin varsity team as a freshman.

“I will be there early, probably 6, 6:30 a.m.,” Aaron Ambrocio said of Saturday’s opener. “I want to watch my son play football.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.

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