Sports in Piedmont get reprieve — for now

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The city of Atlanta made public today its ban on large outdoor festivals in city parks, a move in response to the state’s long-running drought and ban on outdoor watering that keeps caretakers from rejuvenating the turf after large events. But in imposing new regulations on the use of the parks, city officials stopped short of also giving the boot to the organized sports leagues that call Piedmont Park home.

For now, that means at least three gay sports organizations – the National Flag Football League of Atlanta, Hotlanta Softball League and Hotlanta Soccer Association – can continue their use of the city’s largest and most popular park. The annual 5K run and walk hosted by Frontrunners Atlanta each Pride also seems safe under the new regulations, which address events held on turf and not those staged on asphalt. The run, which snakes through Grant Park and along nearby surface streets, is held entirely on hard surfaces.

Greg Pridgeon, chief of staff for Mayor Shirley Franklin, called the drought “a dire situation” in announcing the city’s new regulations for outdoor events.

“We know that not everyone will be pleased,” Pridgeon said in a press conference at City Hall this morning. “We think the citizens of Atlanta will work with us and give us the opportunity to keep these parks in good shape. We are in a serious situation here.”

But the sports teams that use Piedmont – or any of the city’s parks – aren’t completely immune. Dianne Harnell Cohen, the city’s parks commissioner, (pictured above with Pridgeon) said her staff is monitoring the parks and may impose further restrictions as sports seasons get underway this spring. The city has already banned cleats from the park and further restrictions could mean teams are forced to rotate fields and parks.

“We are watching that very carefully,” Harnell Cohen said at the press conference. “We are not at that point yet because we are not in season now.

Read more on how the ban on large festivals is impacting the annual Atlanta Pride festival.

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