Ontario waterpark operators happy province will let them open this summer

·3 min read
Big Splash at Bingemans did not operate last summer because the province didn't allow waterparks to open due to COVID-19. Waterpark operators across Ontario will be allowed to operate this summer under step two of the province's three-step reopening plan. (Craig Norris/CBC - image credit)
Big Splash at Bingemans did not operate last summer because the province didn't allow waterparks to open due to COVID-19. Waterpark operators across Ontario will be allowed to operate this summer under step two of the province's three-step reopening plan. (Craig Norris/CBC - image credit)

Mark Bingeman says it's fantastic that waterparks will be allowed to open this summer under the province's three-step reopening plan.

Bingeman is president of Bingemans in Kitchener, which operates several indoor and outdoor entertainment venues including event space, camping and the Big Splash waterpark.

Last summer, waterparks remained closed for the entire season. The provincial government never allowed them to open as a way to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Under the new reopening plans, waterparks can open under step two but with capacity limits. If step one starts June 14 and goes according to the province's plan, then step two could start 21 days later on July 5.

Bingeman says there is "no question we will be open."

"It's fantastic that we're permitted to open," Bingeman told CBC Kitchener-Waterloo on Friday morning, saying the early July opening would "give us almost the entire season."

"It's great to see a pathway forward. It's great that people can see things in a methodical way," he added.

"We're still going through the paperwork and we need to see the actual documentation. The grid is great to follow. But again, there's still a lot of questions."

Happy for clarity

Steve Mayer, general manager of Wet 'n' Wild in Toronto, says last summer was frustrating, but there were also a lot of unknowns about the virus and most operators understood the need to proceed cautiously.

They held out hope that they could open for at least part of the summer, but it never happened.

After last summer, operators formed the Waterparks of Ontario Coalition and talked to the province over the winter about what rules needed to be put in place for this summer.

"The province figured out that maybe they got it wrong with these parks because the outdoor stuff was found to be very safe," Mayer said.

"We're outdoors. You have wind, you have sun and a lot of UV. So, we're not friendly to COVID, these outdoor parks. Then on top of all of that with everything being open air, we have one of the best sanitizers in the world, which is chlorine."

Alon Shatil, general manager and part of the ownership team at East Park in London which operates a waterpark, says they've been preparing for this summer, but it's been "agonizing to not know" if they'd actually be able to open.

"We were preparing our waterpark but we were doing so blindly," he said. "Doing so blindly was very painful and scary."

That prep work included doing maintenance on park facilities as well as hiring people. He said he had to give kudos to the young people who accepted summer jobs knowing it was contingent on the province allowing parks to open.

"We're really happy to have some clarity and I'm sure they have a sense of relief," Shatil said.

Mayer says they've hired some people and started virtual training sessions while Bingeman said they're looking to hire up to 200 people for this season.

"Our entire team has been working on being open this summer for quite a few months," Bingeman said.

Outside is safer

Shatil says waterpark operators understand the importance of ensuring people can physically distance themselves and curb the spread of COVID-19 this summer.

"We understand the severity of what's been going on and we certainly support the province and health units and health board in terms of their efforts," he said.

He said outdoor activities are a "very positive and safe outlet" for people to feel a sense of normalcy.

"We're excited to work with the province to provide a safe and fun venue and location for Ontarians to enjoy their summer and make the most of it while still maintaining protocols," Shantil said.

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