The City of Airdrie plans to take a measured, phased approach to opening its public facilities now that Alberta is in Stage 2 of the provincial government's economic relaunch strategy.
On June 9, the Alberta government announced public facilities could reopen as part of Stage 2. However, the City clarified facilities in Airdrie would take a little more time before allowing access to residents.
“Obviously, the safety of our residents and employees is our highest priority and we’re not going to rush to reopen any of our facilities until we have the people and processes in place to do so safely,” said Mayor Peter Brown.
“One thing people need to remember is that many of our staff were laid off due to COVID-19, so we’re bringing them back and retraining them in how to live in the new COVID-19 world, with all the new policies, procedures, safety measures and signage. That takes a bit of time, and I would ask the community to just be patient. We’re going to get there as soon as we can get there.”
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At a June 15 regular meeting, Airdrie City council heard an update on the municipality’s strategy to reopen indoor facilities like Genesis Place Recreation Centre and Bert Church LIVE Theatre (BCLT) in the coming weeks, with reduced hours and new health and safety measures in place.
“Families and individuals in Airdrie have really sacrificed their regular well-being activities to protect the well-being of others in our community, so kudos to everyone for doing their part,” said Brad Anderson, Genesis Place manager.
According to Anderson, Genesis Place will begin by opening its fitness centre “in the next three weeks.” The fitness centre will have a limited capacity of 70 people – 50 per cent less than could normally use the amenity – and exercise equipment will be spaced at least three metres apart so users can adequately distance themselves.
“This is an area we believe we can open and kind of test our new protocols and see how things go with the new guidelines and educating our users,” Anderson said. “Then, two weeks following that, we’re going to open up most of the rest of our amenities – the pool, field house, arenas and meeting rooms.”
Once opened, the aquatic centre will be limited to 60 people. The hot tub and steam rooms will remain closed.
“If you’re coming to the pool, you will have to reserve a spot for a lane pool or for a family drop-in time,” Anderson said.
Patrons will be advised to arrive changed and to minimize use of the dressing rooms, he added, while the executive change room service will be suspended for the foreseeable future.
Pending the success of the reopening plan, Anderson said modified group programming will resume one month after the fitness centre opens.
“That could be some sport and wellness programming, like a cycle class where we could spread the bikes out enough to run a program,” he said. “But we want to just get open first and test our entry and exit points before we resume programming.”
Anderson stressed that regular operations will likely not resume at Genesis Place until a vaccine for the coronavirus is available.
“We’re going to be in this state of flux for quite some time,” he said. “Physical distancing will need to be maintained [and] we are making drop-in spots reservable online in advance so we can limit capacity.”
Similar measures will be implemented at the City’s arenas – users will not have access to dressing rooms and must arrive ready to skate. Viewing areas at Genesis Place will be “extremely limited,” Anderson said, with physical-distancing markers around each rink.
According to Clay Aragon, manager of Recreation, Culture and Social Planning, reopening BCLT will happen incrementally. The theatre will start by offering facility rentals for small meetings and rehearsals, before accommodating other types of programming in future weeks.
Once reopened, BCLT will have maximum capacity of 142 people, Aragon said. This includes performers, staff and audience members.
“This impacts the types of service offerings we can provide to the community, both from a health and safety perspective, and in terms of cost-efficiency,” he said, adding BCLT will implement services that accommodate provincial health requirements, such as online ticketing and pre-entry safety screening.
“We'll continue to communicate with the public to inform them of the modifications and some things they can expect from BCLT as we reopen.”