LETTERS: Response to Marysville Arena closure

City Council has decided to keep the arena closed for now

A response to the City decision to keep Marysville Arena closed for now.

I am writing this in response to the City of Kimberley council’s decision to keep the Marysville Arena closed. I appreciate that City staff and management are doing their very best to make physical activity and associated wellness accessible through the safe operation of recreation facilities that were built and are maintained for our Kimberley folks to enjoy. I also acknowledge that our council and mayor are not making decisions vindictively, but are attempting to navigate a challenging set of circumstances. However, I feel qualified to share my thoughts on the reasons (numbered below) our Mayor cited for keeping the doors to the arena locked. There is simply too much misinformation in this press release to let it slide in my opinion. If the points below were the basis for this decision as he stated, then it was not a fully informed decision. Note that I am not representing any of the local teams that I coach, volunteer with, or associations that I am a board member for. I am a concerned citizen.

All user requests accommodated: Kimberley Minor Hockey teams have all managed to book practice times at the Civic including numerous 6:45 morning practices where families have been following the protocols including children dressing for their sport outside of the arena. However many of our Kimberley kids are on teams hosted by both Cranbrook and Kimberley and the Civic schedule does not come close to accommodating ice bookings from those teams. Via Sport is BC’s governing body for sport and has approved games, however the Civic schedule can not accommodate games.

Closing MV impacts adult recreational hockey and out-of-town tournaments only: Adult Rec teams are governed and insured by Hockey Canada and could submit return to play safety plans to the City as they have in other communities where dressing rooms are being used. I believe they have not done this due to their preference to not dress outside of the arena and the lack of available evening ice times. Alberta teams will not be coming into town to run tournaments out of the Marysville Arena this year and this sadly will also impact our tourism sector (restaurants/accomodations/shops). However local teams are permitted to host “super weekends” where three other teams from within their cohort would come to town for the day to play games, eat at our restaurants and peruse our shops – or at least they would if there was ice time available.

Go to Cranbrook for ice: Cranbrook has no space for ice users. Cranbrook Minor Hockey and BC Hockey teams are looking at booking in communities like Canal Flats to find ice for games and practices. Those teams would book ice in Marysville if it was available.

Marysville is not designed to allow for distancing: Currently there are chairs spaced out in the Civic and non-players and non-coaches are not allowed in the arena. The same arrangements could be made to work in the Marysville Arena. Current protocols have a 15 minute entrance and exit time on either side of the ice time during which arena staff are not to be in common areas. This and other protocols are in place to limit contact between staff and users and could be implemented in the Marysville Arena with physical barriers and clearly communicated expectations.

More staff needed to maintain cleaning and access control: I feel like more transparency would be welcome on this point from the Mayor’s press release – we are left to assume that the City can not afford to fund adequate staffing levels at the arenas. Are there more staff on duty at the Civic than in “normal” times? I am in the arena and on the ice frequently and, unless I am mistaken, there is one staff on duty as there always has been. If those workers are being stretched too thin, why are they not being supported by the staff who would typically be working at the Marysville Arena? I’m sure they would appreciate the hours they are not getting at the locked arena. Maybe there is Aquatic Centre staff who are looking for work?

Use the outdoor rinks for extra ice time: Many questions arise for me when thinking about this. Is the City going to exclusively book outdoor ice for user groups with the same degree of protocols for safety? If not, isn’t this presenting a solution and environment that is less controlled and less safe than an arena when you consider protocols such as contact tracing, daily health checks, and physical distancing? The only public skating times currently available are during school hours and I feel it would be a shame for families to not have access to the outdoor rinks because they are booked. Regardless all minor hockey associations are governed by BC Hockey and it does not routinely approve the use of outdoor rinks for hockey.

Finally, I can certainly appreciate the changing climate around recent spikes in COVID cases and how changes in directives and recommendations compounds the complexity of this and many other issues. My intentions are not to impose undue stress on the staff and management of our recreation facilities – they are doing their best with what they are being given and I appreciate them and their efforts greatly. I am offering my perspective on the council’s decision and trying to shed light and share facts related to the rationale that was shared in the Mayor’s press release.

I personally feel like some sort of engagement with users to collaborate and come up with creative solutions would be very appreciated and likely productive. Maybe in January, we open up the arena but only on weekends? Four days a week for afternoons and weekends? There are compromises out there and I’d love us to find a way to safely get more of our kids out on the ice.

Thank you,

Carson Loftsgard

Kimberley Bulletin