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10 News Investigators: Soccer goal anchors still not being used in some communities

10:57 PM, Dec 11, 2012   |    comments
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TAMPA BAY, Fla. -- Despite almost a year's worth of warnings about youth soccer goals, some cities and counties still aren't anchoring the equipment down properly -- a mistake that's killed or seriously injured almost 100 kids across America in the past three decades.

The 10 News Investigators first exposed dangerous soccer goals in February, eliciting promises from elected officials to keep fields safer. But follow-up stories in March, then again in October, found the widespread problem still existed across Tampa Bay.

Every soccer post and every league's bylaws come with warnings that goals should be anchored to the ground at all times. Kids can easily tip over, and get hurt from, the several-hundred-pound objects if they're not secured down by screws, chains, or sandbags.

Goals are often left unanchored simply because maintenance crews, coaches, or players are too lazy to replace sandbags after moving the nets. In 2007, Polk County's Corey Hawk was killed when a goal tipped over onto him.

PASCO COUNTY

Despite significant progress in securing goals and forcing leagues to take responsibility, the county still had unsecured goals at Jack Mitchell Park and John Testa Fields, where 10 News warned commissioners of unanchored goals four times since February.

When contacted by 10 News, several county administrators and  commissioners declined on-air interviews for the story. But the county quickly secured all unanchored nets and said it would continue to work with the West Pasco Youth Soccer Association.

Compliance was significantly better, however, at the Land O' Lakes Recreation Complex, operated by Central Pasco Youth Soccer Association. All 18 goals were either sandbagged or anchored to the ground, while signs warned participants that goals are to remain anchored at all times.

CITY OF TAMPA

At Cuscaden Park in Ybor City, the city installed semi-permanent anchors into the ground to prohibit players/coaches from moving the goals or accidently tipping them over.

In October, the city's parks and recreation director said participants would need a permit if they wanted the city to move the goals.

And at Lanier Elementary School in South Tampa, dozens of nets all seemed properly secured with sandbags.

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY

Since first alerted by 10 News on the subject, Hillsborough County says it has instituted weekly checks of all its fields. Yet, 10 News found a number of goals still unsecured in early December.

Kids practiced under unanchored goals at East Hillsborough's Heather Lakes and BAYSL complexes, as well as at Town & Country's Shimburg Sports Complex, Ed Radice Sports Complex in Citrus Park, and South Hillsborough Soccer League in Riverview.

The county recently informed leagues they would be charged for staff time if goals were found left unsecured at any hour of the day, but department directors tell 10 News no league has been charged yet. The county is "working to achieve compliance rather than get into billing."

CITIES IN PINELLAS COUNTY

The county doesn't operate any soccer fields, but cities in Pinellas have fared well with 10 News' spot-checks. 

In North St. Petersburg, every single goal was secured at Puryear Park. In the Tyrone area, all goals were locked down at Walter Fuller Park.

Pinellas Park's youth fields previously scored perfectly when 10 News checked compliance.

And on Seminole's fields, most, but not all, goals were sandbagged down on 10 News' first visit to the fields.

POLK COUNTY

In Lake Wales, where Corey Hawk was killed, many of the home-made goals were replaced with heavy PVC pipes secured into the ground. And at the county-run Loyce E. Harpe Park in Mulberry, some nets still remained unanchored despite plenty of nearby sandbags.

MANATEE COUNTY

Goals at the SR-70 soccer fields were properly anchored down to the ground.

SARASOTA COUNTY

At the popular Twin Lakes Soccer Fields, all goals were properly secured with sandbags. Goals at the 17th St. fields were also properly secured.

But in 10 News' first visit to the Sarasota Football Club fields on Richardson Road, a number of goals were unsecured.  Commissioner Nora Patterson was alerted, and county staff was quickly sent out to address the problem.

LONG-TERM SOLUTIONS

Three states have recently passed legislation to mandate goal anchoring, but Florida is not one of them. And given the anti-regulation momentum in Tallahassee, a new law would be a tough sell.

"The problem with bills like this is it can be construed that you're over-regulating," said former state representative Peter Nehr from Tarpon Springs.

Find 10 News Investigator Noah Pransky on Facebook or follow his updates on Twitter. Read his Sports Business Blog at Shadow of the Stadium.

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