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Hub Staff

After a shortened 2019/2020 ice season, the Town of Saugeen Shores was happy to announce that ice plants at both the Plex in Port Elgin and the Coliseum in Southampton were up and running. At the September 14 Committee of Whole, Recreation Manager Lisa Billings presented a recommendation to council to get eager skaters back on the ice with a phased in approach that will see both arenas open this fall.

For Phase 1, staff intends to have the Southampton Coliseum available to minor sports groups on September 28 and the Plex on October 13. Phase 2 will see both facilities expand to welcome recreational teams and private ice rentals by late October.

Phase 1 will operate under reduced hours, weekdays from 3pm to 11pm while Phase 2 will resume regular arena hours at both facilities.

Phase 3 will begin to introduce Town run programs and public skating but there is no set date for Phase 3 at this time.

Billings assured council that they consulted with community groups including the Southampton Curling Club, the Saugeen Shores Minor Hockey Association, the Saugeen Shores Skating Club, the Saugeen Shores Winterhawks and recreational teams while building their plan for reopening. She explained that both arenas are single operator facilities and the influx in labour due to heightened building control, customer service, cleaning and disinfecting will require additional staff resources. The Recreation Manager estimated a cost of $20,000 to $25,000 to cover the labour shortages for the remainder of this year.

Billings also indicated a loss of revenue of $2,500 since the arenas closed on March 13 and forecasted an additional revenue loss of $30,500 from October to December 2020.

The report to council outlined several new protocols that will be introduced, which are listed below.

-Entering the facility no more than 15 minutes prior to rental time
-Exiting the facility no more than 15 minutes after leaving the ice surface
-Spectators limited to one per participant
-Controlled building access to limit congregating and capacity
-Physical distancing and maximum capacities for dressing rooms
-Arriving fully dressed to play
-Modified play – no intentional contact permitted
-Masks required at all times (including in dressing rooms) except when on ice

Councillor John Rich expressed his concern in opening the Coliseum before the Plex. “I understand why we would do so, in order to get the Curling Club up and running,” said Rich. "But when I look at the Plex facility, I see a facility that has six dressing rooms as opposed to four. I know our Public Health Unit has shown us that we can only put seven people in a dressing room, we have to have three out in the hall,” he said.

Rich also mentioned the club room at the Plex that could be useful for isolating groups. The councillor further questioned the decision to only open to minor hockey in Phase 1. He argued that by forcing private ice users to travel to Owen Sound or other communities, the local economy suffers. “I would like to see users from other communities and private users be able to use the facilities as soon as possible, both to lower costs and to ensure we continue to drive economic development in our region,” Rich concluded.

Billings reminded council that the lag between the opening of the Plex versus the Coliseum is only two weeks which staff viewed as a minor delay. Billings explained the reasoning behind excluding private users during Phase 1 and suggested it was justified by the numbers involved with the minor hockey and the skating club.

“We know that [minor sports groups] are eager to get on to the ice. Once they do they have basically maximized the ice that we have available. Both of the user groups have expressed that they are in fact looking for additional ice than what they currently have available," noted Billings. “I’m hesitant to fill the arenas with both minor hockey and figure skating users as well as private rentals initially until we feel comfortable with what these new operations look like," she added.

Billings pointed out that if the minor hockey teams were not ready to start at the time of the arena reopening, they would look at bringing on private rentals in Phase 1.