It will be different this year at arenas for many northwest Sask. towns as they work to keep their arenas safe for participants and spectators.
Local community and arena staff are working within public health restrictions in order to give all their user groups the opportunities to use their facilities.
This has included increased sanitation, time limits on users coming and going from the facility, and separate entrances and exits. Current regulations say only 30 people are allowed on the ice with another 30 allowed in the stands. Signing in to the facility is also a must to allow for contract tracing in case of a COVID case.
Town officials have been ready to see these plans change as COVID cases ebb and drop within the province and different regulations come down from the Saskatchewan Health Authority.
Regan Beck, Meadow Lake’s recreation manager, said they will be following all these protocols at their facility for the upcoming ice season. As a member of the minor hockey executive, Beck has also seen an increase in participation this year as people still want to get out and participate in their community despite COVID-19.
With regulations in place, Beck said he hopes they can begin to eventually loosen up and let more events take place.
“But we're hopeful, things are progressing right now, open up a little bit more sports games.”
The Village of Edam has their policies in place for their arena, even if the natural ice surface won’t be completed until November with the cold weather.
Chantal Fudge, the arena facility manager, said the arena plays an important role in the 480-person community and will continue to offer free walking and public skating programs, as well as minor and senior hockey practices at the moment.
Each participant will have to sign a waiver stating the risk of contracting COVID-19 is slight but still very real despite extensive cleaning measures in order to use the facility. Each group will also appoint a COVID-19 monitor to supply sanitizer and record information for contact tracing.
Jordan Schechtel, the Town of Battleford’s recreation director, said their facility is smaller than most so controlling the flow of traffic has been a challenge. Hockey practices, skating lessons, and rec hockey will be able to continue this fall when the facility opens.
All the previous user groups have stated interest in ice time this season, Schechtel said.
“We're gonna see how things go once we open and try to follow the guidelines as closely as possible and also to see how much use we get. It could be down, it could be the same, it could be more, I don't know. Once we open the facility and start operating then we’ll have a better idea of what we're going to need.”
Potential arena goers are asked to stay home if they are not feeling well. Any questions or concerns can be directed to local arena staff.
Becky Zimmer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist