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City of Calgary reopens select rinks and pools; community associations left with difficult decisions

Click to play video 'COVID-19: City of Calgary reopens rinks and pools; community associations left with difficult decisions' COVID-19: City of Calgary reopens rinks and pools; community associations left with difficult decisions
WATCH: The City of Calgary will be reopening three arenas and four pools to help get kids back to practising. The move is in response to the province's surprise move to allow limited youth training again amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. But as Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports, it's left community associations wondering if it makes sense for them to reopen their facilities. – Feb 10, 2021

The City of Calgary has announced it will reopen six sheets of ice at three arenas and four swimming pools in response to the government of Alberta’s eased COVID-19 restrictions.

On Saturday, the province made a surprise announcement that it would allow people 18 and under to take part in practices, lessons and conditioning activities again. The changes to the COVID-19 rules went into effect on Monday.

READ MORE: COVID-19: Kids back at practice as in-person dining and gyms open in Alberta on Monday

There can only be 10 people in a group, including coaches. Everyone must maintain physical distancing and masks must be worn except when engaging in the physical activity. No games are allowed.

The City of Calgary ice will be available at the Max Bell Centre, Father David Bauer and Norma Bush arenas and at the Southland Leisure Centre. The rinks will be available starting Thursday.

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The four pools that will reopen on Monday, Feb. 22 are Bob Bahan, Canyon Meadows, Killarney and Sir Winston Churchill Aquatic and Recreations Centres.

Facilities can be booked for one-on-one training but not for games, league play or group exercise. Lessons, practices and conditioning activities for minor (under 18 years) sports and activities can be held for up to a maximum of 10 individuals including participants, coaches and trainers.

Public skating, swimming and group fitness activities are part of later phases of the province’s phased plan to ease restrictions and are not permitted by the public health orders at this time.

Click to play video 'COVID-19: Impact of restrictions, mental health factors part of decision to allow youth sports practice in Step 1' COVID-19: Impact of restrictions, mental health factors part of decision to allow youth sports practice in Step 1
COVID-19: Impact of restrictions, mental health factors part of decision to allow youth sports practice in Step 1 – Feb 8, 2021

Calgary Recreation is currently operating with only 10 per cent of its usual front-line staff. The city said re-staffing the four pools will take time before they can reopen. Not all community-run facilities will be reopening.

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The Triwood Community Association arena remains closed and won’t be opening any time soon.

The executive director said his group assumed no sports would be allowed for a minimum of three weeks so they decided to take out the ice. Stephan Horbay said they won’t put it back in to accommodate “these wavering decisions.”

“It was quite a surprise. We were not expecting that and it’s caused some confusion,” said Leslie Evans, the executive director of the Federation of Calgary Communities, which represents 152 community associations in the city, about the province’s announcement on Saturday.

Read more: Alberta government adds minor sports training, gymnastics and dance to Monday’s COVID-19 reopening

Evans said it may not make financial sense for community associations to open their buildings for groups of 10 at time, considering the associated costs.

“At the local level, everyone wants to open and they want to get back to doing business and they certainly want to support children mental and physical health, but there’s a cost to doing that and without guaranteed funding or some sort of ability to finance, that it might not make good business sense,” Evans said.

Evans said the community associations are in a difficult position now because it costs them money to open every time.

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“Each community association in Calgary is run by an individual board who have been closed for almost a year. They have received no provincial operating dollars and generally speaking, they have received no operating dollars. It’s all based on the rentals and their program fees and services,” Evans said.

Read more: COVID-19: What you can and cannot do in Alberta on Monday, Feb. 8

She said the city has stepped up with some emergency funding, which has helped but there are other factors like insurance costs.

“Other groups do have different insurers that actually have excluded COVID, meaning if a COVID outbreak happens at their community they have limited coverage. Therefore it’s a very big risk for the board to open,” Evans said.

“The extra sanitizing has to come out of the rental fees they can charge. And quite honestly, it may not make good business sense to open for one or two recreation groups that won’t pay market rent because they are down to eight participants and two instructors.”

The city said it’s not possible to tell at this point if all the kids who want to practise will be able to.

“We are going to open our facilities up.

“We’ve been talking to user groups and we think we have a pretty good sense of demand but until the doors open and people understand how they can use our facilities and what the rules are, I think it’s going to be a bit of a moving target,” said City of Calgary Recreation Regional Manager Jarret Hoebers.

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Read more: COVID-19: Hockey Alberta cancels minor hockey games for remainder of season

The executive director of Hockey Calgary said the city’s announcement means there’s enough ice to get started but predicts there will be more demand.

“I am hopeful the city will open more rinks and we will know more once our members opt in or opt out of our program,” said Kevin Kobelka.

“I would say for this week it is enough.

“We are sending out information and we are asking who is interested. We have 14,000 members but who knows if it’s going to be 12,000 who want to skate or 5,000 want to skate. So we are in that in-between spot right now, trying to figure out what the demand is for the program.”

The city says the Calgary Soccer Centre is not part of the city facilities which are opening at this time but that could change depending on demand.

The Calgary West Soccer Centre is open.

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