The North Peace Arena will finally reopen to user groups on November 2, the city says.
The City of Fort St. John's recreation manager Vanessa Cumming presented council with an update on the rec. department's COVID Safety Plan on October 13. Included in the presentation was the opening of the North Peace Arena, the city being in Phase 3 of its recreation recovery plan, and current and potential safety procedures.
The North Peace Arena has been closed since March, not reopening in September like the Pomeroy Sport Centre due to ongoing renovations and repairs. Work scheduled for this year included the replacement of the building fascia and eavestroughs, with more work set to be done in 2021. The Pomeroy Sport Centre's two ice surfaces have been in high use by hockey and skating clubs, and the opening of the North Peace Arena will take some pressure off the Sport Centre, and allow groups to hold more ice times and start more programs.
The city remains in Phase 3, though it has progressed through the phase. Essential programs have already taken place, such as lifeguard and first aid training, and has begun rolling out its structured programs, such as the various fitness programs offerred through the city. Free form programs, such as swimming lessons, are the next and last step of the city's progression through Phase 3, as it gets closer to Phase 4 and the resumption of all services in a "new normal" way.
One relieving piece of information was the fact that if the city does have to regress to Phase 2, should things get worse with the coronavirus or due to other factors, the recreation buildings will remain open.
"We have made alterations to phase 2, and if the province says we need to move back, we have the option of adaption what we originally did in phase 2, making it more appropriate for our community in the colder months," Cumming said.
Council members were glad to hear the news.
"It's awesome to see our facilities won't reverse and be closed to the public, hopefully, if we have to go back to phase 2," said Councillor Byron Stewart.
Cumming said spectators at practices and games are being discouraged, though user groups are able to have up to 25 people in the stands at the Pomeroy Sport Centre. Some groups, such as the Fort St. John Minor Hockey Association, are choosing not to have spectators for the time being, though that's expected to change in the coming weeks.
The city began taking online bookings for public skating, public swimming, and the walking track, on Monday, October 5. To book a facility online, go here.
One item of concern, brought to Cumming by Councillor Tony Zabinsky, was the city's current policy of no use of showers in changerooms at the rec facilities. Locker and change rooms are currently limited to 10 people per room, with no use of the showers permitted.
"A question I always get asked, because 'Im a hockey player ..., is 'why can't we shower, we wash our hands?', and I understand to clean it it needs to be dry." Zabinsky said.
Cumming said that the surfaces would need to be dried after each shower so that the disinfectant solution can be effective, and that it's not logistically possible right now for staff to dry the surface and disinfectant it after each shower and use of the locker room. However, Cumming said she and staff are evaluating options for allowing showers after events or games at night, since there is a deep cleaning of the locker rooms that takes place at night anyway.
Mayor Lori Ackerman urged the recreation department to consider all solutions regarding the use of showers at the facilities.
This Friday, October 16 will see the first sign of any competition at a rec facility since they have been reopened, when the Fort St. John Huskies host the Dawson Creek Junior Canucks for the first of five proposed exhibition games. Fans will not be allowed in attendance, but Phase 3 of viaSport's Return to Sport plan does allow for full-contact play, with teams allowed to have a full bench of players.
Email sports reporter Dillon Giancola at firstname.lastname@example.org.