Youth sports leaders cry foul over encampment at Miller Playfield

Parents are speaking out after a Seattle park, used for youth sports, has turned into a homeless encampment.

Miller Playfield has been the site of a growing encampment for nearly a month after Cal Anderson Park was cleared out less than a mile away.

Parents trying to organize springtime sports said the field is unusable.

KIRO 7 broke the story of the growing encampment but didn’t know just how many children play sports there.

The adults who work with those children said they need this playfield cleared out.

And this homeless encampment, they said, came out of left field.

It doesn’t take much for Leo Lyons to relive the great youth baseball moments he has witnessed at Miller Playfield.

“Our 9- and 10-year-olds — the Mustang division uses this field for baseball starting in March going through June,” said Lyons.

So this encampment for mostly homeless adults has thrown a curveball he never saw coming.

“And this year, with the way the field is, it’s unusable,” he said. “Three of the four dugouts are occupied by tents. If a foul ball goes over the backdrop and hits somebody in the head, what happens that way? And would you feel safe having your children here at this field right now?”

So he is forming a coalition to force the city to restore Miller to playing condition.

“Cityside Lacrosse. Celtics Soccer,” he said, naming the various entities he is contacting. “I’ve talked to Monte Kohler at O’Dea High School. Talked to St. Joe’s AD, athletic director. I’ve got calls in to the Holy Names people. Because all of us use this field.”

This is what happened when a KIRO 7 news crew was there just 10 days ago: a man shouting profanities then knocking over the gear.

Still, it’s hard to say whether the encampment is larger now.

Lyons has been touching base with elected leaders, including Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan. The mayor was asked about Miller Playfield’s woes at a news conference on Tuesday.

“Not just Miller Playfield,” Durkan said. “We will be working with our outreach teams to see how we can reach into those encampments. Get people the services they need. Get them out of the parks and restore the parks to the community.”

Lyons worries what could happen if a child ran afoul of the encampment while chasing, say, a foul ball.

“Or worse,” Lyons said. “And that’s our worst nightmare. That something happens. And then we’re doing it after something has happened to a child. This field is for children’s use. And that is what we want it returned to.”

Lyons said they don’t want the people living here simply tossed out onto the street.

The mayor said they don’t have to be. Seattle City Council has provided enough money for at least 500 more units of housing this year.

But that likely won’t happen in time for the youth sports that are played here in the spring.