We knew that winter sports would look a little different this year. For many citizens, it will be the absence of “the old barn” that will be the strangest.
The decision to not open the Selkirk Arena was based on three factors: the ability for visitors to social distance in the facility, the staffing requirements to operate the facility, and the cleaning requirements to keep user-groups safe.
Safety is Top Priority
“First and foremost, the safety of our citizens and our staff is our top priority,” said the city’s Director of Culture, Recreation and Green Transportation Brady Clark.
“With the number of COVID-19 cases sharply rising it’s important that we make our facilities as safe as possible. With how small the spaces at the Barn are, especially in the dressing rooms, it’s essentially impossible to give users enough space to properly distance themselves.”
The city’s Chief Administrative Officer Duane Nicol says the added cost of staffing and sanitation, as well as the lesser demand for ice, made the Barn financially unviable this year.
“For us to be able to properly sanitize the dressing rooms, bathrooms, benches, and other high touch points all while doing the regular work of maintaining the ice, we would essentially need to double our staff,” said Nicol.
“Many user groups have seen a serious decrease in registration. On one hand you have less ice rentals and therefore revenue and on the other you have significantly more costs of operation. On top of the facility unable to provide adequate space for users to physically distance, you have a very large additional cost that will be borne by all tax payers at a time when we’re very concerned about our finances.”
Working on relocating user groups
Clark says the city has contacted user groups of the Barn and is working on different ideas to provide them with what they need.
“The Barn was primarily used by younger kids, so it’s important we find them the space they need,” said Clark
“We’ve been working with other users like the Fishermen and the Steelers to come up with solutions that benefit everyone. We’ve also suggested the use of outdoor spaces during the time of year when it’s still mild outside. We’re exploring every possible avenue.”
The City’s primary ice surface is currently open and following extensive new protocols to ensure it meets the requirements set out by Manitoba Health. Nicol says the City has worked closely with the local health inspector and other provincial officials to ensure the city can open recreation facilities and provide services to citizens.
“Our priority is always safety – so that has been the bottom line in every one of our conversations. As a citizen of this community, I am very proud of the hard work city staff have undertaken to open up the pool and the Recreation Complex despite the challenges,” said Nicol
“It’s been a logistical nightmare made more difficult by the changing dynamic of the pandemic and the health orders. But staff have made it work, and citizens are being responsible and adapting to the new rules and practices. It’s a challenging time for everyone, but this too shall pass”.
Nicol says any savings found from not opening the Barn will help pay for the additional costs of operating the Selkirk Rec Complex under the new COVID-19 protocols.