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No Date for Return of Ice to SCRD Arenas

No Date for Return of Ice to SCRD Arenas

The SCRD Board would not commit to having its skating facilities open by August 4 despite a request from Coast youth sport organizations at its July 9 committee meeting. The local Minor Hockey and Figure Skating Associations were told to wait until July 23 for a report on reopening of ice surfaces to come forward for committee and Board consideration. Those groups represent over 500 Coast families with young people normally registered in ice-based sports programs. These people are also waiting for answers about the Coast’s 2020/21 winter sport season.
Sechelt area Board Director Darnelda Siegers advised the groups’ spokespersons, Mike Frizzell, Katie Turner and Andrea Watson, “we are grappling with the financial piece. We need to ensure the community is behind all the decisions that we make.” At a May 28 committee meeting, staff reported that loss of revenues and increased expenses from facility closures in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic would likely cause the 2020 arena budgets to incur deficits.
Speaking in support of the 134 pages of documentation the associations put before the committee, Watson highlighted the need for Coast youth to return to locally based sport activities. “The question should not be can we afford to, but can we afford not to,” said Watson. She sighted the physical, mental and social benefits that participation in sport programs provide to young people.
Frizzell pointed out that delaying the commitment on a reopening date will increase costs for some Coast families. Without knowing if there will be ice on the Coast by August, those that want to keep their children skating during the summer are forced to register for programs in other jurisdictions. He said that strains the budgets of those groups, takes money off-Coast and puts more demands on the already busy ferry system.
The associations have developed return to play protocols than have been reviewed by Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH). These were developed to meet the requirements of provincial health authorities, the sport governing bodies and the regulations that the SCRD is anticipated to have in place as facility operators. There is a range of scenarios, each designed to keep the public safe at arenas during the different phases of the pandemic recovery. Included are rules related to distancing between participants both on ice and when preparing to skate, limiting of spectators, pre-participation checking of skaters for symptoms of COVID-19, and enhanced cleaning protocols. In presenting the material, Frizzell thanked Sechelt Councillor, VCH employee and long-time local amateur hockey supporter Brenda Rowe for her assistance with developing the return to play program.
The material submitted detailed responses to a recent survey of local families with children in organized ice based sport programs. Of the fifty respondents commenting on the restart of hockey related activities, ninety-two per cent said they felt that by August, it would be safe for children to resume playing organized hockey on the Coast.
Adjusting to the pandemic recovery will also impact the associations and their members financially. Both groups anticipate they will be facing higher operational costs due to the restrictions that need to be respected to keep participants safe. More reliance on volunteers to handle duties such as ensuring all involved respect the protocols, which will adjust as the situation with COVID-19 changes, is being planned for.
Connie Jordison, The Local Weekly

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