A plan has been prepared that, if approved by the GNWT, would see the Hay River Community Centre reopening to the public.
The facility has been closed since March because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Stephane Millette, the director of recreation with the Town of Hay River, presented the plan to town council during its online meeting on Sept. 1.
In comments to The Hub, Millette said the plan was prepared in consultation with user groups, territorial sport organizations, various communities, the GNWT and others.
“It’s been a few weeks to work together and see what everybody is doing and try to ensure consistency within the community, and for the GNWT trying to ensure some consistency across communities,” he said.
The plan is for the Community Centre to reopen in five steps.
“We’re currently in step one because we do have staff in the building and Sub on the Hub is operating now in the Community Hall,” Millette noted. “And we do have some government rentals of the Doug Wieterman Hall and the Multipurpose Room.”
On Sept. 14, step two would involve reopening the customer service desk, reopening the walking track from Monday to Friday, the resumption of fitness classes and afterschool programming in the Multipurpose Room and other spaces, and dine-in options for Sub on the Hub.
Step three would begin on Oct. 12.
Millette said that would involve reopening the arena ice surface and viewing area, along with the reopening of the curling rink, if the Hay River Curling Club is ready to begin its season on that date.
Step four, which would come into effect on Oct. 26, would mostly involve relaxation to some of the initial measures put in place for the ice surface and other spaces.
“So what we’re looking to is kind of go two or three weeks at a time, confirm that the procedures are working, confirm that there are no Covid cases from our reopening of the facilities and then just a relaxation of the initial measures as of Oct. 26,” said Millette.
That relaxation would be for things like the guidelines for using dressing rooms, and when players would be required to arrive before their games and leave afterwards.
Finally on Nov. 9, step five would see the reopening of the swimming pool and the Community Hall for meetings and private rentals.
“Throughout these steps, there are mitigation measures and restrictions, obviously,” said Millette. “What we’re looking to do is we’re looking to create bubbles within different spaces of the Community Centre. We’re looking to create those bubbles so that we can have safe use of those spaces and, if there were Covid cases within the community, then we would be having less of an impact on community spread and we could determine quicker what spaces need to be closed.”
The separate bubbles would be the curling rink, arena, pool and walking track, plus each meeting room and the Multipurpose Room would be considered its own bubble.
“We’ve got five main entrances, and we’re identifying what entrances which groups would be using,” said Millette. “Most of the entrances are for one specific bubble. There are a couple of the entrances that do access two of the different spaces.”
The recreation director is cautiously optimistic that the GNWT will approve the plan.
“Our plan does have triggers and measures that we would put in place if the risk was to increase,” he said. “The plan we submitted is given the current assessment of the risk.”
Mike Westwick, manager of communications for the Covid-19 response with the GNWT, said the plan has been received by the territorial government.
“The Hay River Community Centre reopening plan remains under review by Public Health and we’re actively working with the town on getting reopened safely and helping people get back to things they really enjoy there,” he said.
Westwick noted it is hoped that the review process could conclude by the end of this week.
“We’ve certainly been impressed with the amount of work that the Town of Hay River has put into putting in commonsense plans to get the Community Centre running again,” he said. “We’ve been very happy with the collaborative spirit with which they’ve moved forward with us.”
Westwick explained that reopening applications are investigated by environmental health officers, who work with the applicants.
The environmental health officers provide advice to Dr. Kami Kandola, the NWT’s chief public health officer, who ultimately decides on approving such reopening applications.