After receiving orders from the Provincial Health Officer to close on March 16, 2020, the City of Kimberley is finally able to re-open the Kimberley Aquatic Centre on July 6.
“Pool staff have been waiting a long-time for this day,” said Nicole Halasz, the City of Kimberley’s new Manager of Parks and Facilities. “Our renovations are complete and our COVID-19 safety plans are in place. We now feel that we can offer the community safe access to the pool.”
A set of guidelines have been developed by the Lifesaving Society of British Columbia, viaSport BC and the British Columbia Recreation and Parks Association (BCRPA) to allow the recreation sector to operate safely within COVID-19 restrictions.
Following those guidelines and with the decline in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations and an increase in the number of locals with at least one dose of the vaccine, plus the renovations to the building, a plan has been prepared to allow for the Aquatic Centre’s re-opening.
Building upgrades include a new covered exit door added to create a physically-distanced flow for patrons to get in and out of the centre. There are a several other smaller changes that have been made as well to improve safety for staff and patrons.
Under current restrictions set out by the PHO, the Kimberley Aquatic Centre will have a reduced occupancy allowing for a maximum of 40 patrons and 10 City staff members at one time. The 10 staff will consist of up to seven Aquatic Centre staff including a coordinator, a cashier and lifeguards plus up to three facilities maintenance employees.
Staff were recalled to the Aquatic Centre on May 17 to start implementing necessary changes. They’ve adopted the PerfectMind membership management software and are preparing for new facility admission and access protocols.
New signage has been posted, safety and Lifesaving training has been completed and staff are now completing pre-season equipment checks and preparing the Aquatic Centre for the proposed opening date of July 6.
In completing these necessary pre-season checks, staff discovered mechanical issues with the pool boiler and are now working to fix the problem before opening date.
As a result of the lengthy closure of the facility, several Aquatic Centre employees took on work elsewhere, or have lapsed into training requirements. Staff are now reviewing staffing requirements and preparing for re-certification programs and recruiting new employees if needed.
Due to the restrictions of Phase 2 of the BC Restart Plan, program offerings will be limited at the initial reopening, but as the community advances through the plan’s phases, programming and participant numbers will be able to increase.
The limited programming will include Aquafit, therapy programs, parent and tot programs, seniors’ programs and public and family swims.
The hot tub will be open with reduced capacity, though the steam room will remain closed for the time being.
Patrons are required to register and pay for all programming online and there will be a new registration system set to go live later this month at www.kimberley.ca
“While we encourage all those who are able to register online for swim times, staff will be available to help anyone requiring assistance to book a swim by phone at 250-427-2983,” Halasz said.
“Keep an eye on our website at www.kimberley.ca to find program registration times and of course the City will announce availability of that system as soon as it becomes available. I’d like to thank the pool team for their perseverance during this tough year. I’d also like to thank Kimberley residents for their patience and understanding. We look forward to welcoming the community back!”
City staff adjusted their operating budget to take into consideration the closure of the centre last year. Program offerings will be closely monitored and evaluated to ensure participation numbers justify the continued offering of each program.
The 2021 Aquatic Centre Parcel Tax was reduced to account for the 2020 and early 2021 closure, while still servicing the Aquatic Centre debt.
According to City Council documents, their are currently eight Aquatic Centres open in the East Kootenay and many more around B.C., all operating with limited program offerings and reduced hours.