Pokemon Go meet-up stopped by red tape

The game Pokemon Go has become so popular in Sudbury that players are starting to encounter red tape due to safety concerns.

Gathering was cancelled because the number of guests was too large

Pokemon Go has gotten so big in Sudbury that now gatherings to play the game in certain parts of the city require permits. (Laura DaSilva/CBC)

The game Pokemon Go has become so popular in Sudbury that players are starting to encounter red tape due to safety concerns. 

The smartphone game, known as an augmented reality app, allows players to capture, battle, train, and trade virtual Pokemon characters who appear in in the real world.

Members of Sudbury's Pokemon Go Facebook group wanted to meet last Friday at Memorial Park just to play the game, but they had to cancel the gathering because the number of guests who wanted to attend became too large. 

I feel the fact that us paying a fee is kind of dumb.- Tanisha de Montigny

About 40 people confirmed they would attend the event on the social media site, and many more were expected to come. However, the city told organizers that if such large gatherings take place on public property, a permit is required.

Tanisha de Montigny, who was planning to go, said she's disappointed. 

"This game has brought so many people close to each other," she said.

"How I felt about us actually paying a fee, especially when it's a free game and the location ... it's a park. I feel the fact that us paying a fee is kind of dumb." 

However, she understands where the city is coming from. 

"We have to follow the same rules as everyone else, even if it's a free video game," she said.

"We're not really an official group. We're just players wanting to play. It just turns out that, because of the amount of players we've been having, [the city] deemed us an official organized group." 

Memorial Park is hot spot for Pokemon Go players. A public gathering had to be cancelled at the park because the group needs a permit from the city. (Google)

Permits creates order and safety

A permit to rent Memorial Park can cost up to a total of $210 dollars for a full day plus another $40 dollars for insurance. 

Cindy Dent, the city's manager of recreation, says when an open invitation is made for people to go to public property, that becomes an organized event. 

"When an organized event happens, there's a requirement through the park's bylaw to make sure that there's a permit applied for. As part of the permitting process, insurance is required due to the liability involved in having certain events on public property." 

Dent added that any time a group of people organize an event at municipal property, they are responsible if there are noise complaints, an accident or if somebody gets hurt.

In that case, the city wants the space reserved, so they won't be held liable if something happens. Dent said the permitting system is meant to create order and safety for both the organizers and the city. 

"The permitting process allows us to organize people who are using the property," she said.

"Because if they had planned to come there on a given evening, it could already be rented. It's a process that the city undertakes to both protect people who are in our public spaces and keep us organized when public spaces are used."

Park a hot spot for players

In the meantime, Pokemon Go players aren't discouraged from planning future events despite needing a permit. 

There was an online fundraising page set up to raise money to rent the park, but an organizer for Sudbury's Pokemon Go Facebook group told CBC News it was taken down due to negative feedback. However, the organizer added that there are plans in store for a larger event that will include vendors and music. 

As for de Montigny, she'd still love for a Pokemon Go gathering to take place at Memorial Park. 

She says the park is a hot spot for players, as Pokemon and PokeStops - areas where items can be collected - can be found there. 

"The last thing we want is someone in the group getting a fine because we didn't secure things right and we didn't pay the insurance," she said. 

"We want to see the park safe. We want to see the park clean. We don't want to just jump in and do things wrong and something ends up happening [because it] ruins the fun for everyone." 


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