ROCK HILL S.C. (WBTV) -South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster allowed competitive play for certain sports in South Carolina starting June 15.
Basketball was not on that list, but the Rock Hill Sports and Events Center had a basketball tournament at its facility on Thursday.
People said the place was packed on Thursday— everyone shoulder-to-shoulder and not wearing masks.
However, the event organizer said he was doing everything he possibly could.
”There were hundreds and hundreds of players and their family members,” a person said.
A picture sent to WBTV shows the people packed in a hallway next to Rock Hill Sports Center. People at the tournament, who said they felt uncomfortable, say they took it because they could not believe the lack of social distancing and masks inside the center.
“It didn’t look like they were doing any kind of health checks at all. Like we said there were barely any masks being worn. It kind of looked like a cesspool of coronavirus honestly,” said one person who wanted to stay anonymous.
Both say they were concerned for themselves and everyone else around them.
“You’re not even putting just the players in danger. You’re putting bystanders and spectators, anybody involved anywhere and anyone around here it’s putting them in danger,” said another anonymous person.
Mark Sexton, City of Rock Hill Parks, Recreation and Tourism Operations Supervisor, said the facility was only being used for practice and scrimmages.
Sexton said the organizer rented courts for those purposes, and there wasn’t a champion or teams eliminated and there was no admissions price, meaning that it wasn’t a tournament.
“In this scenario, it was nothing more than people getting together and scrimmaging,” he said.
Sexton said that under the governor’s order, facilities were allowed to host basketball practices and scrimmages, beginning July 1.
He said the facility had all of the sanitization and social distancing guidelines in place.
“We have all of the social distancing measures in place,” Sexton said. “We have signs all through the process. Our staff was making announcements every 30 minutes to remind people to practice their social distancing and all of the safe protocols that are in place.”
As for the photo sent to WBTV, the large crowd was gathered in a common area, and not inside of the gym.
Sexton said that inside the gym, there weren’t as many people.
“Once you got inside, the facility is pretty large, it is 170,000 square feet, and you look at the number who came, we were well within the means of the guidelines that are put forth,” Sexton said. “If you look at the photos of the games, that were actually scrimmages, they weren’t that close and there weren’t that much close proximity.”
In a tournament setting, Sexton said officials are aware of the amount of crowd and teams attending the event.
The games were put on by Pro Skills Basketball, a youth basketball organization in Charlotte.
Sim Frazier, the event organizer, said everyone made every effort to keep people safe.
“From our perspective, we tried to do the best we could with our parameters,” said Frazier.
Frazier says they only used six out of the ten courts. They made sure the players and fans were as socially distanced as possible. They sanitized benches in-between games and he sent some pictures of some people wearing masks. They also did temperature checks at the door. He says they tried to discourage people from coming to the gym too early, no more than 30 minutes before.
He said each player was allowed to have only one other person come and watch. There were 24 teams participating.
“Sports and activity have always shown us that is helps people get through certain times so we wanted to be smart with whatever we were doing,” Frazier said.
The core concern is that basketball was not included in the lists of sports Gov. McMaster had approved to restart. Frazier said he did not know that.
“We reached out to the facility and asked when they’d be open to renting,” Frazier said. “I’d be lying to you if I told you I knew the ins and outs of what South Carolina is doing with that.”
WBTV reached out to Rock Hill Sports Center for comment but since it is a holiday weekend, no one was available to speak.