SUNDRE — In considering its approach to make the arena and community centre available to the public, the municipality endeavoured to develop a balanced plan without placing itself in a position to police activities.
“We weren’t trying to overreach and create unnecessary problems,” said Chris Albert, director of corporate services and acting chief administrative officer. “We were just trying to find a nice balance for all the groups.”
The provincial Restrictions Exemption Program (REP) allows indoor recreation facilities to operate without most public health restrictions although masks are still mandatory. All patrons aged 12 and older must provide valid proof of vaccination or proof of a negative rapid test within the last 72 hours, or documentation of a medical exemption.
In recreation facilities where the REP is not enacted, adult (18 and older) indoor group classes and activities are not permitted and adult competitions are paused except where vaccine exemptions have been granted. Capacity is limited to one-third of the facility’s fire code and attendees must be with household members only or two close contacts if they live alone.
Youth sports (under 18) are permitted in facilities that have not enacted the REP as long as participants screen for symptoms, maintain two-metre distancing and wear masks except while engaged in physical activity.
There also exists another path for sports facilities that involves allowing adult user groups to develop and implement their own REP, Albert told the Albertan during an interview.
“We felt that was an important distinction,” he said. “So, we did talk with all the user groups.”
Among the arena user groups approached by the municipality were youth organizations like Sundre Minor Hockey Association, Sundre Rec League and Sundre Skating Club, as well as adult groups like the men and women’s recreational hockey leagues, he said.
“We also talked with the groups that use the community centre,” such as the pickleball, taekwondo and gymnastics clubs, he said.
“Because of the options that were available to us, and after talking — especially with the youth groups — it seemed like the health order, for us, was the best way (forward),” he said, adding that enabled the youth user groups access to the facilities.
As for adult organizations, the municipality has granted those groups the option to develop their own REP, he said.
“Under the health order, they’re not allowed to have events, per se. But under the REP, they are,” he said.
“The way we’ve structured it, is that if those individual groups want to implement an REP, they are more than welcome to. And then if they’ve proven to us that they’ve implemented an REP, they can then rent our facilities,” he said.
“We’ve set it up so that we’re meeting our requirements and allowing the youth groups (access to facilities). But we didn’t want to take responsibility for implementing and enforcing an REP program. We decided to leave that up to the individual adult groups.”
A prime example, he added, is the pickleball club, which wanted to continue playing their sport, he said.
“They have chosen to implement their own REP program and take responsibility for it,” he said, adding the group has rented out the community centre’s gym twice a week to accommodate two groups of players.
Since pursuing this approach, Albert said the municipality has for the most part received positive feedback from both youth and adult user groups.
“They seem to like the way that we’ve implemented it,” he said.
Although the men and women’s recreational hockey leagues have not yet committed on whether to develop their own REP, he said the groups seemed to appreciate the option.
“They’re still positive as to the way that we’ve implemented this,” he said. “We wanted to do what we could do to allow some things to go ahead, and then allow those adult groups and other user groups to make their own decisions.”
Members of any groups who might have additional questions or concerns are also invited to call the town office at 403-638-3551 and ask to speak with community services.