State fines 76ers Fieldhouse operator for volleyball matches played without face coverings
After finding athletes not wearing face coverings in 30 volleyball matches in a two-week span inside the 76ers Fieldhouse in Wilmington, the state has fined the facility's operator $15,000.
In a letter to 76ers Fieldhouse General Manager Steve Cavalier dated Oct. 8, Division of Public Health Director Karyl Rattay said her agency reviewed video and photos from "concerned citizens" showing athletes in violation of the state's emergency declaration.
The 27th modification to the declaration, issued Sept. 3, requires face coverings be worn in any business or indoor space open to the public. That extends to sports, where an exception is made for those engaged in "vigorous physical activity," but not those playing indoors.
"All athletes playing indoors must wear face coverings at all times, unless rule changes or face covering modifications approved by DPH are in place," the Division of Public Health's guidance reads.
BPG Sports, which operates the 76ers Fieldhouse, has now been fined twice for violations of COVID-19 restrictions. In a similar enforcement letter dated Aug. 14, the Division of Public Health issued a $5,000 fine for violations pertaining to social distancing and face coverings.
Cavalier said he has not received a letter from the Division of Public Health dated Oct. 8, and therefore could not comment. He said he has not directly received complaints regarding violations of COVID-19 restrictions, and has not seen the evidence the state used to issue the fine.
In the letter, Rattay said activities taking place at the 76ers Fieldhouse on Sept. 25, Sept. 27, Oct. 2 and Oct. 5 were not in compliance with the state's emergency declaration.
According to the letter, 10 days prior to the first violation, the Division of Public Health sent the 76ers Fieldhouse a notice saying its previously approved safety plan needed to be updated to abide by the Sept. 3 modification to the declaration.
After the second violation, the Division of Public Health sent a reminder that an updated plan was still needed, and addressed the need for face coverings for athletes, the letter says.
The Department of Health and Social Services can impose a penalty of up to $1,000 per violation per day under the state's emergency declaration. The letter says BPG Sports received a $500 violation per game.
As of Sept. 18, more than 1,500 complaints had been sent to an email address set up by state officials to field reports of noncompliant businesses, according to Division of Public Health spokeswoman Jen Brestel. The state has penalized eight businesses since August, including BPG Sports, for violations of COVID-19 restrictions.
Other businesses recently penalized include Main Street Cafe in Harrington, Malin's Deli in Newark, Bethany Auto Parts and Marine Supplies in Ocean View, Drop Squad in Wilmington and Rancho El 24 and the Mexican Folkloric Dance Society of New York, the companies behind a rodeo in Bridgeville.
Mask-wearing, social distancing and crowd restrictions have been at the center of ongoing discussions around the resumption of high school sports and other youth leagues.
In voting to restart Delaware high school sports, the Delaware State Board of Education and the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association mandated all athletes, coaches, support personnel and spectators wear face coverings with the lone exception of cross-country runners.
Fall competitions are scheduled to start Oct. 19, three weeks after practices began.
The state's guidance for youth sports mandates the use of face coverings in most circumstances. All leagues and facilities must submit a return-to-play plan to the Division of Public Health for approval.
BPG Sports, the sports management arm of Wilmington-based developer Buccini/Pollin Group, has operated the 76ers Fieldhouse since it opened in 2019 off South Market Street opposite the Riverfront.
The facility features a 2,500-seat multipurpose arena, a large indoor turf field and an outdoor turf field. It is home to the Delaware Blue Coats, the Philadelphia 76ers' G-League affiliate, and hosts several youth camps and competitions.