Skaters asked to wait as they seek August return to ice

Pressure is on for ice to be installed at Sunshine Coast rinks in time for August and user groups made sure Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) directors knew it.

Sunshine Coast Minor Hockey Association (SCMHA) and Sunshine Coast Skating Club (SCSC) presented their return-to-play plans, as well as results from a membership survey that showed an “overwhelming” desire to resume programming.

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COVID-19 health restrictions hit just as the user groups were gearing up for spring programming, forcing the groups to cancel tournaments, skating lessons and other activities.

At a July 9 planning committee meeting, the groups asked the SCRD to stick to its plans and open rinks on the Sunshine Coast on Aug. 4.

“Every week seems like a big block of time right now with August coming so quickly,” said SCMHA president Stu Frizzell.

Registrar Kate Turner said they are already feeling pressure to inform more than 500 families about what’s coming. “We were looking for some clear information that the ice facilities either will or will not be opening,” she said. “They’re wanting to know – are they staying on the Coast for August or are they looking for alternative ice in other communities?”

Directors weren’t ready to commit.

Sechelt director Alton Toth, who chaired the July 9 committee meeting, said they know work is underway but they “don’t want to rush into anything prematurely.” The other Sechelt director, Darnelda Siegers, said the SCRD is still grappling with the financial consequences of the pandemic and directors want to make sure all community voices are heard.

She said more information would be forthcoming at a July 23 committee meeting where a staff report on options for rec facilities is expected. “We cannot guarantee at this point Aug. 4. That’s where we’re at,” said Siegers. “I’m sorry that’s not enough for you, but that’s all we can do at this time.”

Planning general manager Ian Hall did hint at the potential for an August ice install, though. He said staff were working “all out” on restart plans with the idea that “pending direction from board” and finalized plans, “we will be ready to meet the needs and expectations of our patrons and our user groups and the milestone of that report in a couple weeks fits into that path towards a restart that certainly could include ice in August.”

During discussion, directors asked for more details about the plans in place to reduce risk. Turner walked through some of the strategies and described them as evolving documents.

Andrea Watson, president of the SCSC, told directors members are already travelling to other communities for ice time. Ice has been installed at several public and private Lower Mainland facilities and on Vancouver Island.

She said both groups are willing to commit to the amount of ice they had originally booked prior to the pandemic. “There has been a huge impact on our families,” she said, since some skaters are travelling to Coquitlam while others are using ice in Victoria and taking on the cost of accommodations to do it. “Having the ice in our community also will reduce the have and have nots.”

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