Reopening of Edmonton recreation centres, pools hampered by staff shortages

·3 min read
Only three city-run outdoor pools are open in Edmonton by booking only. (Lydia Neufeld/CBC - image credit)
Only three city-run outdoor pools are open in Edmonton by booking only. (Lydia Neufeld/CBC - image credit)

Fully reopening Edmonton's recreation centres and pools hinges on how quickly the city can bring back staff to work in the facilities, city council heard Tuesday.

Andre Corbould, city manager, said the city is recruiting to fill positions now vacant at leisure centres and pools.

"Reopening dates are subject to change depending on the availability of staff resources and or provincial requirements," Corbould told council at an emergency advisory committee meeting.

The city temporarily laid off 1,300 staff last spring at the beginning of the pandemic.

Corbould said 740 are back in the workplace and another 254 have an upcoming return date or are on leave and will return when their leave is over.

About 130 people resigned when they got their recall notice, Corbould said, so the city is now recruiting to fill the vacant positions.

Coun. Bev Esslinger said staggered reopenings are understandable but some of her constituents are wondering when recreation centres will reopen.

"I just want clarity and transparency for the public," Esslinger said. "Because you still have to do some bookings, it'd be nice to know when the one closest to you is going to be open."

Some bookings still required

Patrons of outdoor pools — Fred Broadstock, Queen Elizabeth and Oliver — will have to continue booking a timed-entry ticket through the website, Corbould said, to manage the high demand at the facilities.

Booking a timed-entry ticket online will no longer be necessary for entry to indoor aquatic and fitness centres.

Shauna Graham, operations supervisor for the city's leisure centres and outdoor pools, said bookings are needed to ensure a safe lifeguard to swimmer ratio.

"Some form of a time entry system may stay at outdoor pools for the foreseeable future," Graham said in an email, "but capacity limits will continue to increase as additional staff are put in place."

Corbould again pointed to staffing issues.

"We anticipate welcoming more patrons to the outdoor pools, as additional employees are brought on board this summer," Corbould said.

Several recreation centres and pools were closed before COVID-19 for scheduled maintenance, including Peter Hemingway, Eastglen, Confederation Pool, Grand Trunk and Mill Creek.

Amenities at recreation and leisure centres are now accepting drop ins.

Mill Creek outdoor pool is scheduled for rehabilitation work and will remain closed for the 2021 summer season.

The city continues to evaluate the safety of opening the Borden Natural Swimming Pool.

Several larger centres reopened in late June and are posted on the city's website, including Clareview Community Recreation Centre, The Meadows Community Recreation Centre, Commonwealth Recreation Centre and Kinsmen Sports Centre.

The Hardisty Leisure Centre opened last Saturday.

Three more are opening in the coming weeks, including the O'Leary Leisure Centre on July 10, Londonderry Leisure Centre on July 14 and Terwillegar Community Recreation Centre aquatic centre later this month.

The Edmonton Public Library is also adjusting and while most public services are now available, the libraries won't operate at 100 per cent capacity until next week.

Libraries plan to be back to full-time hours by Aug. 15.

City hall will reopen to the public on Aug. 9 but there will be no events in the city room until after the municipal election in October.

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