The Sportsplex pool is set to reopen to the public today after nearly two years of being shuttered due to COVID-19 health measures and facility upgrades.
The pool will host a soft opening over the holiday season, with a return to full programming on Jan. 8, said parks and recreation services director Perry Roque.
“There’s excitement, but I think everybody nowadays with COVID has a little bit of concern,” Roque said. “We’re making sure we are doing everything we can to protect both the public and our staff.”
The pool will slowly reopen with a one-hour lap swim followed by a public swim from 1 to 3 p.m.
The pool was initially closed in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It remained shuttered as there were mechanical problems the city needed to address. Roque noted accessibility improvements were also added to the change rooms in partnership with some user groups based on their feedback during the closures.
There were many different steps needed to officially reopen the pool: the piping underneath the pool needed to be replaced and tested to ensure it was working, a flow test was conducted to ensure water was flowing properly and then the mechanical work began.
The last step was working with public health to have an inspection of the facility completed and updates to all of the return-to-play measures for the pool in regards to COVID-19.
Roque noted the Sportsplex arena has been open to the public with health measures in place.
Health protocols at the pool are similar to those already active at the facility. Visitors who come in through the front doors of the Sportsplex will be asked to provide proof of double vaccination. Masks will be required to be worn until a user enters the pool.
Once someone enters the water, they can take their mask off.
Those who are not feeling well or exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms are encouraged to remain at home.
Roque added the facility has been working closely with staff to prepare for the reopening, plans of which have included ensuring they are certified and all proper qualifications are in place. The pool has had a deep clean as well. Staff completed in-service training to prepare them to welcome the public back.
“We’re very excited to be reopening the pool and to be able to offer that service again to the community. We look forward to everybody being able to come back and everybody being safe when they come and use our pool.”
Brandon Bluefins Swim Club head coach Barbara Fay said the team is looking forward to returning to the pool after spending almost two years isolated on dry land.
“The kids are itching to get back in the water because they are seeing friends competing and they have kind of been left out for the past year.”
Brandon was one of the only clubs around that did not have access to a pool over the past year, she said. The pool did not open when sports were allowed to continue due to maintenance repairs.
They were unable to access any alternative pools for training outside of Brandon due to COVID-19 public health measures.
The Bluefins have experienced shake-ups during the pandemic — some youth have aged out of the sport, got jobs or found new activities while waiting for the pool to welcome back swimmers.
The new season will be like “starting from scratch,” Fay said, and will be treated like a rebuilding year.
“We’ll probably have a few coming back that have been part of the team before. We had a couple of girls that were training on their own at the Y[MCA] for a little bit and I would send them practices. But for the most part, the kids have either found something else to do,” Fay said.
She added that because it was an Olympic year, the team has seen a surge in people interested in trying competitive swimming for the first time.
The 2022 season will be a bit different for athletes because they are starting in January, while other teams are farther ahead as they began the season in September. Fay said when they go to meets, the Bluefins will be at a different level of competition compared to other clubs.
Fay is working to adjust training accordingly to help youth prepare to race.
She cautioned the club is also working with what is possible for training given the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the province.
“Everybody is wanting to get back into the water, so I think it’s going to be good,” Fay said.
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Chelsea Kemp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun