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Uncertainty surrounds Bruce II reopening

New COVID-19 regulations and financial concerns are slowing the reopening of the Bruce II Sports Centre. – © J. René Roy

PORT AUX BASQUES – The Bruce II Sports Centre is still adapting to the new rules for operating as a public building in the era of COVID-19.

All of the facility’s employees were adversely affected when the province first enacted safety regulations to cope with the pandemic, says manager Wanda Merrigan.

“Most were laid off and some had reduced hours. We have six seasonal staff who are laid off every year but left earlier than anticipated. Including lifeguards, approximately 19 people were affected,” wrote Merrigan via e-mail. “Fourteen have returned and hopefully the rest will follow in the next few weeks.”

The pool and gym facilities have reopened with new restrictions in place, but the hours of use have decreased to allow for cleaning. In order to comply with physical distancing recommendations, the number of users has also been decreased.

“Swim lessons haven’t started yet. At this point our instructors are not allowed in the water to teach classes, so we are working on a plan for lessons,” shared Merrigan.

Local sporting groups, like Port aux Basques Minor Hockey and the Port aux Basques Figure Skating Club use the facility regularly, and Merrigan says that the facility is working closely to implement and develop plans for safe return to play.

“We are hoping to have the ice on in early October,” wrote Merrigan.

The future of the canteen service remains uncertain, and Merrigan speculates that it may be able to open only for take out. Currently no food consumption is allowed in the sports centre’s lobby area.

“I’ve had many questions from parents regarding reopening and I don’t have a lot of answers,” admitted Merrigan. “COVID-19 regulations are a work in progress and we are doing our very best to follow the government guidelines to ensure our users stay healthy.”

Shauna Strickland presented the Recreation Committee Report at the Sept. 8 council meeting, which discussed many of the new safety precautions.

The maximum number of users will be capped at 60, and skaters will not be able to use the dressing room. Children under 9 will be able to have a parent or guardian accompany them, but older users will not. Strickland also outlined some unknowns remaining when it comes to bowling, as the committee is awaiting information from the user groups. Meanwhile the swim team will focus only on its competitive swimmers.

Coun. Jim Lane objected to the Recreation Committee’s proposed reopening date and asked for a review of the Sports Centre’s financial status first, given the heavy losses due to the COVID-19 shutdown. Mayor John Spencer agreed that it only made sense to examine the projected costs and revenues for the winter season, which Council will undertake before settling on a definitive date for reopening the Bruce II.

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