Ever so gradually, the Canada Games Centre in Whitehorse is relaxing some of the changes it has made due to COVID-19.
At Whitehorse city council’s May 17 meeting, Krista Mroz, the city’s manager of recreation and facility services, said some of the “self-imposed” restrictions that were put in place in 2020 due to the pandemic are slowly being lifted while a larger plan for the centre continues to be reviewed by the territory’s COVID-19 response unit.
“A reopening plan was submitted to the COVID Response Unit (CRU) and while we wait for direction, the Canada Games Centre has started to lift self-imposed restrictions, such as returning concourse seating to pre-COVID operations and opening the pool party room for rental,” she stated in response to questions on May 18. “Within the next few weeks, next steps include opening showers, and addressing masks while exercising in the gym. Some areas, such as the pool, require a bit more planning and require further direction from the CRU. All steps are evaluated to ensure they meet current COVID guidelines, including Safe 6 +1.”
Tables and chairs have been returned to the concourse in recent days with a request that users wipe down the tables with cloths and cleaner provided; some lockers in the wellness centre have been made available for use and the pool party room is once again available for rentals.
“It’s starting to look like the CGC (again),” Mroz said in an interview following the council meeting.
Pool use has also changed over the past year moving from there being no access to the pool to a scheduling system that allowed individuals and families to reserve times to use different areas of the pool facility. Now it is back to limited drop-in (until capacity is reached) with some swimming lessons and exercise classes.
In a May 18 interview, Karen Zaida, the city’s aquatic supervisor, said continued efforts have meant changes being made every few weeks, with gradual increases to drop-in opportunities, lessons and more while maintaining COVID-19 safety regulations.
The plan submitted to the CRU was done to determine what direction the city can take with the sauna, steam room and spray features of the pool, change rooms and showers; as well as potential capacity increases throughout the entire recreation complex.
As Zaida said, the city has been taking the steps it can while waiting on approval of its plan that would allow for changes in traffic flow as well as turning on some of the pool features that have been off for the past year.
Earlier this month it was with excitement that staff welcomed students in Grades 5 to 7 back to the pool for a water awareness lesson.
“It’s so exciting,” Zaida said, as she described staff gathering to listen to the kids in the pool, “because it sounded so normal. It gave me goosebumps.”
As the city waits for approval on a number of potential changes, it is also wanting to ensure that things are ready to go when it’s time. Work is underway to ensure showers are in good working order after being off for a year and that features will be ready to go once it is deemed safe to do so.
In the meantime, the city is also continuing with some of the initiatives that got underway last year due to the pandemic.
Unable to offer lessons at the pool like it normally would, the city began offering swimming lessons at Long Lake. The outdoor classes proved so popular, the city will continue to offer them this summer, in addition to lessons at the pool.
“There are some silver linings,” Zaida said.
Morz noted the timing to consider operations of the CGC works out well as the CGC is typically quieter heading into summer with arenas shut for maintenance and the city’s annual summer day camps yet to start.
“We do anticipate an increased interest in the pool as measures begin to relax, and our popular summer camps bring youthful energy back into the facility,” Mroz said. “We’re already looking ahead to fall; program staff are busy developing programs and activities, and our booking agents are beginning to connect with user groups about anticipated usage. As has occurred throughout the pandemic, we continually monitor guidelines and adjust as required.”
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