Skaters and hockey players like these Langley Girls Ice Hockey Association players might return to Langley Township arenas this year, but it won’t be like pre-COVID. (Langley Advance Times files)

Skaters and hockey players like these Langley Girls Ice Hockey Association players might return to Langley Township arenas this year, but it won’t be like pre-COVID. (Langley Advance Times files)

Skating, swimming return to Langley Township rec centres

Reduced capacities and shorter times are expected under a phased reopening

Langley Township will re-open its ice rinks and pools, but things won’t be back to normal as far as recreation this summer and fall.

Township council unanimously voted in favour of a plan to re-start some rec operations at Monday’s council meeting.

“It’s not a full re-opening of rec centres,” Mayor Jack Froese told the Langley Advance Times in the wake of the vote.

The Aldergrove Credit Union Community Centre will see a partial opening of its outdoor pool facilities as soon as is practical, likely about two weeks from now, meaning mid-August, said Froese.

The centre’s Otter Co-op Outdoor Experience – the pools but not the waterslides – won’t have nearly the number of users they did before the coronavirus pandemic struck, however.

Froese said plans are not final yet, but the current proposal calls for about 40 people at a time in the pools, with perhaps four swim sessions a day, of one and a half hours maximum per session.

That’s to keep numbers low to allow distance between swimmers.

“I just have a feeling it’s not going to be enough,” Froese said. He expects demand to be much higher for swimming.

But the primary concern is safety of staff and residents, the mayor said.

“We don’t want to have to open and then close again,” he said.

Similar plans are in store for the ice rinks in Aldergrove and Brookswood, which are expected to re-start in September.

“Ice will go in for September for rental,” said Froese.

That means teams such as figure skating groups, minor hockey teams, and adult rec league teams will be able to take to the ice.

Representatives of local minor hockey groups spoke at Monday’s council meeting, conducted via Zoom, to plead for some ice time for teams this fall.

“We need our local arena to install the ice and open, judiciously, for September,” said Teresa O’Callaghan, secretary for the executive of Aldergrove Minor Hockey.

“What we do has never been more important,” she said, saying the stress social isolation has imposed on local youth has had a real mental health impact.

“We do appreciate that indoor space does bring different concerns than an outdoor space maybe would,” said Carly Leakey, president of Langley Girls Hockey.

But she said her organization can have more control over spectators and participants, including mandating masks and the number of people involved.

“We are willing to work with anything the Township puts in place for safety protocols,” she said.

One of the issues girls hockey faces is player retention, she said. While losing a season of boys hockey would be bad, Leakey noted that the players would return the following year. A long hiatus for girls hockey might mean many players drift away and never return.

The Township report on re-opening suggested rinks will open with 14 skaters maximum on the ice, which would include coaches.

The curling rinks at the George Preston Recreation Centre in Brookswood could open to about 60 per cent of last year’s capacity, according to the report.

A full re-opening of rec facilities isn’t expected until after the pandemic ends, likely when a vaccine is available, which is not anticipated before the very end of 2020 or sometime in 2021.

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