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RDCK carefully plots course to re-opening arena faclities

The NDCC Arena will remain closed until a plan can be put into place to re-open for upcoming season. — The Nelson Daily photo

It’s a “hurry up and wait” for arena users in the Regional District of Central Kootenay due to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.

The RDCK closed all facilities in mid-March when the pandemic hit most of North America, forcing stay-at-home-orders for most of the general public.

Now arena user groups are playing a waiting game as RDCK staff plot a course to reopen facilities safely, allowing community sports groups to return to playing games.

“Arena COVID-19 plans are being worked on,” Joe Chirico, RDCK General Manager of Community Services said in an emailed statement.

“The RDCK team assigned to arena use is creating safety plans and has met with all three KIJHL (Kootenay International Junior Hockey League) organizations, all Minor Hockey Associations, all Skate Canada and Speed skating clubs in the RDCK to discuss their situations entering the winter season.

“This is important for determining demand for the ice.”

The Nelson Leafs, Creston Valley Thunder Cats and Castlegar Rebels are eagerly awaiting word from the RDCK to begin plans for the upcoming season.

The KIJHL set early October as a tentative time to begin the 2020-21 season.

“To give (a) perspective the BCHL (BC Hockey League) season is tentatively set to start December 1,” Chirico said, adding the RDCK team has also met with other municipalities of KIJHL franchises.

“The WHL (orginally) targeted October 2 (since changing to December 2020), but this is contingent on receiving the necessary approvals from government and health authorities in each of the six jurisdictions in the WHL”

“The American Hockey League start date is December 4 (and) U Sports (Canadian University) has cancelled its fall season altogether and will not play until January at the earliest,” Chirico added.

Chirico said RDCK staff has devised a process to re-open safely.

Those steps include:

  • Completion of RDCK Arena COVID-19 Safety Plans
  • User groups expected demand - this will allow the RDCK to complete budget evaluation
  • User Group COVID-19 Safety Plans
  • Opening Fall 2020

“The use of our indoor spaces is the highest risk,” Chirico said.

“The RDCK is developing scalable safety/operational plans to be able to increase or decrease service as necessary based upon the best public health information available.”

Nelson Leafs president Corey Viala, although disappointed at the current state of affairs, understands this will be a slow process to reopen arena facilities.

“We of course understand the procedures and policies that the Provincial Health Officer has put forth and need to be adhered to by all recreational facilities in British Columbia,” Viala explained.

“We are hoping for some positive changes in the near future as British Columbians and Nelson Leaf fans are looking forward to seeing some live on ice action sooner than later.”

In Trail, the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary was to re-open the Cominco Arena for two summer hockey schools to operate.

Meanwhile, in Prince George, City Council voted not to reopen the CN Centre and Rolling Mix Concrete Arena for the rest of 2020, instead openingKin Arenas to user groups effect August 17.

The decision poses a challenge for the Western Hockey League Prince George Cougars and BCHL Prince George Spruce Kings.

The Cougars were scheduled to begin the WHL 2020-21 season in October 2 at the CN Centre before the league opted to delay the start until December 2020.

Meanwhile the Spruce Kings are tentatively prepared to start the BCHL campaign in December at Rolling Mix Arena.

Both teams, like most leagues in BC, are waiting on provincial approval before seasons can start.