SUNDRE — Provided the prerequisites are met to launch Stage 2 of the provincial government’s reopening plan this Thursday — as they were expected to — the Aquaplex’s doors will finally reopen.
“Anything could change at the drop of a hat, as we’ve seen in the past,” said Kari McQuaid, manager, who spoke with The Albertan on June 3 immediately following a meeting with provincial officials from Alberta Recreation and Parks, who were joined by representatives from Alberta Health Services to provide information and clarification on the guidelines. The former, she explained, facilitated the meeting and directed specific questions to the latter.
“A lot of it’s kind of actually hard to believe, where they’re going so fast after a long time of so many restrictions,” she said.
Asked what she considered to be some of the key takeaway highlights from the meeting, McQuaid said among the main differences from prior protocols was a substantial relaxation for teams and clubs.
“They’re definitely saying if you’re involved in a sport or a club, and there’s a team like say swim club, that while you’re actually in the swim club participating in that team event or sport or game, you don’t have to be distancing or masking up,” she said.
However, she added officials still encourage people to continue practising masking and distancing wherever possible prior to jumping into the water, but not once a team enters the pool.
Another big change to the guidelines, she said, are to the restrictions regarding the intensity of workouts.
“That was a huge deterrent for a lot people that were trying to return to fitness before — it was allowed, but only low intensity,” she said.
Additionally, she said the meeting left her with the understanding that health and wellness activities — or fitness — will allow for walk-ins.
“Before, they were definitely big on pre-booking,” she said.
Along the way, she said there were opportunities to ask questions as well.
“We also threw some different questions at them. Like during lane swim, are we still going to be required to maintain the three metres between participants, or not. And that was a question that they actually couldn’t answer,” she said.
“There’s that grey area where they’re saying if you’re on a team, you don’t have to distance. However, if it was a family, they would ask that that family stays separate from the other families,” she said.
“They’re saying when you can, you should still maintain distance and masks. But there is a lot of leeway when you’re actually doing the activity.”
Although some information was outlined and clarity offered, more specific guidelines were expected to be provided in the coming days, she said.
“They say that we are trending towards a June 10th opening, or moving to Step 2,” she said.
“We are hoping that that’s going to work out for us to do a partial opening.”
One big hurdle to overcome is the absence of an absolutely reliable and definitive timeline to provide an adequate opportunity for the management to recall or hire new staff and develop reopening plans in advance, she said.
While she plans to contact former staff with enough notice and develop a plan to move forward as allowed, McQuaid essentially remains in a holding pattern until she knows precisely when the reopening will proceed.
And that might not be such an easy feat, with at least one employee she looked forward to bringing back into the fold having already been forced by necessity to find another job.
“With the last shut down, another opportunity came up and so they took employment in a different direction, which is really unfortunate because it was someone that would have been hugely valuable for our facility,” she said.
“But I’m the kind of person that believes that if they’re meant to be with us, they’ll be back to us in the future.”
The indoor pool and fitness centre’s manager expressed full understanding for the position so many employees find themselves facing during the pandemic.
“Financially, some people just can’t wait” to go back to a job that they have no idea when, or if, the next shift will be, she said.
Nevertheless, she remained hopeful there would be enough staff to return “and that we’ll be able to hit the ground running.”
The Aquaplex was closed for much of the pandemic, only to briefly reopen under tight restrictions before again having to close up completely earlier in May when the provincial government announced the return to tighter measures to curb the pandemic’s third wave.
“The people of Sundre have waited too long as it is,” said McQuaid.
“We just hope to try and roll out as much as we can, as soon as we can, in a safe manner.”
To that end, she added they’ll be keeping an eye out on what approach other organizations and facilities are taking to glean ideas and find any potential room for improvement.
“Hopefully, we can help each other to offer the best programming we can come up with,” she said.
“Sometimes we have a great plan, but someone else has a better one, and we borrow it!”
Minor ball back up to bat
Meanwhile, Jason Bird, president of Sundre Minor Ball, said practices resumed as of June 1, and added things had gone well for the first couple days back.
“If we get into Stage 2 of restrictions, we can hopefully book a couple of games to finish off the season,” he said.