Black Diamond’s arena doors will open for the first time in five months on Monday, but with some strict guidelines.
Parks and Recreation Manager Les Quinton said the Oilfields Regional Arena will open Aug. 24 to pre-booked user groups only, and remain closed to public skating, shinny hockey and spectators at this time to prevent the potential spread of the COVID-19 virus.
“Public skating, because it’s all different people coming and not a cohort group, we have to eliminate that,” he said. “We have to do everything Alberta Health tells us to minimize the spread.”
As for the decision regarding spectators, Quinton said allowing spectators into the facility will take up more staff time, of which there are currently six employees, as well as increase costs to clean the bleachers between events.
In addition to the facility not allowing spectators, Quinton said the change rooms, washrooms and lobby will remain closed.
“User groups will have to come dressed and use the benches to put their skates on and, once they’re done, put their shoes on and go out another door,” he said, adding directional flow traffic will be in place. “Until the guidelines relax some they have to stay within a cohort group of up to 50 people.”
Quinton said the doors will open just 10 minutes before ice time and that 30 minutes will be allotted between uses for staff to thoroughly clean the facility.
“We’re going to have to do a whole pile of extra cleaning and there’s more cost to that, plus we have to put more space between the groups so we can get it cleaned,” he said. “By the end of a night you’re cutting off an extra hour of time we’re not getting paid for. It’s costing us in revenue and with the extra cleaning.”
The facility lost revenue when it closed in mid-March, in alignment with other recreational facilities across Alberta, in light of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Quinton said about $10,000 was lost the second half of March due to cancelled rentals, including a hockey tournament.
With the facility typically experiencing little use April to June, Quinton said the loss was minimal, and that he expects another $2,000 in revenue was lost over the summer when the facility is often rented for rollerskating, lacrosse, baseball camps and public events like the Millarville Half Marathon.
While the facility will open next week to three hockey camps, Quinton expects hockey games won’t be allowed for another couple of months.
“There’s no games at this point,” he said. “That will happen fairly soon, but we have to work out a few things. We have to wait and hear from the Province.”
Black Diamond’s parks and recreation department is still working on finalizing its guidelines before opening its Scott Seaman Sports Arena, located west of the Oilfields Regional Arena, said Quinton.
“We’re just working on the main rink because we open up next week,” he said. “We expect the Scott Seaman and hockey games to start in November, but we have to wait and hear from the Province.”
The rules and regulations surrounding safety in light of the COVID-19 pandemic is new territory and a lot of work for staff, Quinton said.
“We’re a little more stressed than normal,” he said. “We’re already taking a bit of harassment from people because they want it closer to normal.”
Quinton said some parents are opposing the decision to close the facility to spectators at this time.
“We’re trying to work with them, but they also need to work with us so we can get through this,” he said. “We’re in the middle of a pandemic. Once that lessens up we will get closer to normal."
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