The City of Kelowna is turning its internal conversations from ‘what we can’t do’ to ‘what we can do’ regarding several city-owned sports and recreation facilities that remain closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
And ‘can do’ may soon include waterparks and several outdoor — and possibly even some indoor — facilities.
Although several outdoor spaces were opened in mid-May including tennis and pickleball courts, BMX track, disc golf, beach volleyball and basketball courts, most remain closed.
Jim Gabriel, the city’s divisional director of active living and culture, said the city is taking a ‘go slow to go fast’ approach — guided by B.C.’s restart plan, the sector and regional collaborations — that could see certain facilities open by the end of June.
“The past two and a half months have been challenging for much of the community and the sports and recreation sector is no exception,” said Gabriel while giving a report to council on June 1, adding that recreation plays an increasingly vital role as residents navigate the pandemic.
The city will be taking a phased approach to the reopening of its facilities, placing its focus on outdoor before indoor; casual before programmed use; individual activities before group; skill development before competition; and local community before neighbouring communities.
The facilities now under review for the next phase of the city’s reopening, slated for late-June through July, include water and splash parks; and recreation parks such as Mission Softball Complex, Elks Stadium and other sports fields. The city is also reviewing certain indoor facilities including Parkinson Recreation Centre, Rutland Arena, and community program spaces such as Kinsmen Fieldhouse and Kinsmen Media Centre. According to the report, the indoor facilities the city is looking at reopening offer larger open spaces that support physical distancing requirements and provide the flexibility to support community groups with an approved return to activity plans.
City staff have been in contact with the operators of several third-party-run, city-owned facilities, according to Gabriel, including the H2O Adventure and Fitness Centre, Capital News Centre, Okanagan Gymnastic Centre, Kelowna Curling Club and Kelowna Badminton Club. The city is working with those facilities as they develop their reopening plans. Timelines for the reopening of those facilities may vary.
Employees that were laid off from city facilities will be rehired based on need, according to the report.
Though council expressed it had been eagerly anticipating this presentation from the city’s active living department, one councillor said there’s no way for the city to get this perfect due to the differing opinions of the public.
“It’s going to be a little bit messy,” said Coun. Ryan Donn. “There’s going to be different expectations as to what we will and won’t do and I don’t think there’s any expectation — at least from myself as a councillor — that we need to get this perfect because we won’t.
“We need to accept there’s going to be different levels of acceptance as to where we’re at.”
Gabriel stressed that the city’s reopening plans will remain flexible and tentative.
“It’s going to be a lot of changes as we go,” said Gabriel. “What we think the plan is today, may change tomorrow.
“There’s going to be some bumps along the way.”
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