The Terrace & District Aquatic Centre is set to reopen Sept. 14 (under modified conditions) after closing in March due to the pandemic. (File photo)

Terrace and District Aquatic Centre to reopen in September

City lays out pandemic safety plans for reopening indoor recreation spaces, including pool and arena

The aquatic centre and one sheet of ice at the Sportsplex are set to reopen soon — under heavily modified conditions.

Terrace city council and staff met Aug. 12 to discuss reopening plans. The aquatic centre is planned to reopen Sept. 14 and the Hidber ice sheet is planned to reopen Aug. 24. Both facilities will have limited capacity and will be available by reservation only.

“My recommendation is that we move forward and cautiously, thoughtfully reopen our facilities for the community,” said Carmen Didier, director of leisure services, in the council meeting. “The reopening is going to look a lot different than what it did pre-pandemic.”

Terrace & District Aquatic Centre

Didier said the aquatic centre is the perhaps most complex recreational facility to reopen and creating rules and guidelines for safety during the pandemic required careful planning.

Her department has created a schedule of time blocks for specific uses of the facility. For example, the facility will be open for length swimming and gym use from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. Monday to Friday. Patrons will be required to pre-register online or by phone to attend a time block.

Only 40 patrons per time block will be allowed in the aquatic centre, and there will be more detailed limits for certain parts of the facility. For example, only 18 people will be allowed in the main pool at any given time. Change room capacity will also be limited, and patrons will be assigned a specific space within a change room when they make their reservation.

These are only the highlights of the City’s proposed rules and guidelines for the aquatic centre. A more detailed explanation, including the full proposed schedule of time blocks, is available online. Didier noted that the rules and guidelines are still just a draft at this point and may change. For example, the schedule of time blocks will likely be amended after the facility has been open for a while and the City has had a chance to see where the demand is.

Swimming lessons will not be available, Didier said, because protocols for conducting lessons during the pandemic are still being developed. Aquatic centre staff will need to be trained on the new protocols before offering lessons.

All patrons of the aquatic centre will be charged the drop-in rate, with no discounted admissions or memberships, Didier said, because the City needs to recover as much of the operating costs as possible. The child admission rate will also be applied to babies and toddlers. In normal years, the City typically aims to recover around 35 per cent of the aquatic centre’s operating costs through admission fees, but this year they project only 13 to 19 per cent cost recovery.

Councillor Brian Downie expressed concern about how these rate changes might affect low-income patrons. Didier noted that admission fees are already subsidized by the City, even at the drop-in rate, and the fee for a child is $2.75.

Heather Avision, the City’s chief administative officer, added that City staff did consider the issue of fees for low-income people.

“We certainly had lot of conversation around this,” she said. “I think that there’s agencies within the community that may step up to assist families that are on low income.”

Sportsplex

Didier said the plan for the Sportsplex is to open the Hidber ice sheet first. No date has been announced for reopening the main sheet of ice.

“What we’re hoping to do is use the Hidber Arena to create some best practices of how we’re going to reopen the main arena,” she said. “The main arena will be a little bit different, and may be a little bit more difficult to reopen because of the smaller hallway spaces and the dressing room spaces.”

Groups are required to book the ice ahead of time, and Didier said the Hidber Arena is already booked until the end of September. Each group will be required to have a “door ambassador” who will ensure that only approved group members enter the facility. Then, the amabassador will lock the doors for the duration of their time block.

There will be a limit of 20 people on the ice, most likely 18 players and two coaches. Each skater will be allowed to bring one family member to the facility if required, for example a parent to help tie skates.

Didier said any group booking any rereation facility will be required to submit a COVID-19 safety plan. Hockey groups are following COVID-19 return-to-play guidelines from BC Hockey, the not-for-profit organization that governs amateur hockey in the province.

“Ice user groups are typically following their sporting body protocols,” Didier said.

Currently, hockey is limited to drills and skills only.

Room rentals in the Sportsplex will be allowed in a limited fashion beginning Sept. 8. Only work meetings and training sessions will be allowed, while things like celebrations and public gatherings will be prohibited for now.

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