City prepares new rec rules ahead of reopenings

The City of Fort St. John says it is working to reopen recreation facilities as soon as possible, with operating guidelines expected to be released to user groups and the public in the coming weeks.

“We are working hard to get everyone into our rec facilities. We enjoy seeing them full, whether its a kid skating for the first time or someone training to represent the community at a high level,” said city spokesman Ryan Harvey. “Regardless the sport we want to see those facilities used again and we look forward to that day when that will be possible.”

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The city plans to open the Pomeroy Sport Centre, with ice, and fieldhouse, with new turf, on Sept. 8. The pool is slated to open Sept. 14. The arena will open sometime in October, depending on when recently approved upgrades are finished. All dates are subject to change.

“There are a number of pieces to consider when re-opening facilities. On top of laying off staff and re-assigning staff, there is training and maintenance that has been happening and continues to happen,” Harvey said.

The Pomeroy Sport Centre typically opens with ice in late August, but the delay has forced some hockey camps and players to leave the city for summer skills development and training.

Specifically, the city didn’t hire any summer students this year, who would normally be doing grounds and road work around the city, filling potholes and mowing parks. To compensate, they reassigned staff from other areas to help out with grounds work, pushing back the timeline for when staff would be trained and available to operate the rec facilities.

When asked why Fort St. John has pushed opening dates back while other municipalities in the province have opened their facilities already, Harvey said the majority still don’t, and estimated that only 10 to 15% of rec facilities might be opened across the province.

“We’re not in the minority here in terms of having facilities closed,” Harvey said.

Vanessa Cumming, the city’s recreation director, added to that.

“I don’t want to give people the impression that we are not prioritizing recreation, we are passionate about it and want to do it,” she said. “We have a lot of steps to go through to get the number of staff we have in our facilities trained and certified.”

Building guidelines

The reopening guidelines will spell out new building capacities and what protocols will need to be followed by visitors. These guidelines will take into consideration the provincial health order that limits events to no more than 50 people.

“We will have a guideline for capacity in the buildings, based on recommendations from government organizations we are a part of and the activity level. If there is a high rate of movement, for example, more space will be required for each person,” Harvey said.

For people who are sitting or are stationary, such as spectators or coaches, more people could fit in a specific square footage compared to activities where more movement involved. Each user group will be required to submit a return-to-play plan to the city that matches both the requirements of the city and the guidelines laid out by their respective governing bodies.

“We are working with the user groups to make sure that all of our guidelines will be feasible,” Cumming said. “We won’t be mandating too much.”

Each user group will need to decide what signifies an event. For example, the Fort St. John Mixed Slow Pitch Society clarified that each game would be its own event, so that each diamond could have 50 people, instead of 50 for the Surerus ball diamonds as a whole.

Those decisions still need to be made for other groups, including whether spectators in the stands at a hockey game will be a part of the same event as the players on the ice.

“There are a lot of what-ifs right now, and we are included in them,” said Harvey. “From teams like the Huskies and Flyers who rely heaviliy on fans in attendance, to parents and grandparents who want to watch their kids — those are the questions we still don’t have answers to.” 

Email sports reporter Dillon Giancola at sports@ahnfsj.ca

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