Flag on the play: Youth football team looking for new home after city rule enforced

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A youth football team is looking for a new practice field in Shenandoah.

There's a football flub in the city of Shenandoah: A youth football team is being told by the city that they can no longer practice in a city park.

The city says the rule is not new. It just wasn't enforced until this week, when a resident complained about the team of five- and six-year-olds practicing in the park Monday.

On the day before their first scrimmage, Eyewitness News caught up with the South County Football League's Freshmen Texans practicing at their temporary home.

"We don't have any lighting out here," said football mom Nakia Richardson. "We don't have restrooms. We don't even have water fountains out here."

"Monday we were here and practicing. No problems. No issues. Wednesday when we came out here to practice, everything is suddenly changed," explained Steve King.

The police asked the city to post signs telling people their teams can't play here. Those signs popped up all around the field.

Steve King tells Eyewitness News he's coached his sons' teams at the park. He's now coaching his grandson's team. He says the city muffed this call and he wants the play reviewed.

"From my viewpoint as a resident, it looks to me like they just decided to change the rules overnight," King said.

Not so, says Shenandoah city manager Greg Smith.

"The majority of the park people wanted tennis courts, basketball courts and open green space," Smith said. "Even dating back to the 2007 survey and the 2007 comments, sports facilities for team activities was not high on the list."

According to documentation provided by the city, most of the residents surveyed in 2013 said they didn't want football or baseball fields in the park. After four public hearings last year, city council changed the ordinance to reflect that.

"Organized sports are no longer allowed in the Shenandoah main park," Smith said.

King says he did not attend those public hearings. He also says he did not participate in the 2013 survey. Still, he says, the city should have done better job notifying its residents that the rules had changed.

"I feel like the purpose of a park is to allow kids to play on the park and not doing so is ridiculous," Richardson said.

The team is practicing at a nearby school for now.

"I kind of worked something out for today. But again, I'm going to have to find somewhere else to practice right now because we had planned to be here (at the city park)," King said. "The majority of the places you can use for practice are taken. One of the main reasons for using this is it's rarely used."

King has been invited to address city council at its next meeting on September 14. Even if they reconsider the ordinance, it may not happen until the season is over.

Smith says he's willing to make a few calls to help get them a place until the final decision is made.
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sportsfootballMontgomery County
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