Hamilton swim club operators 'over the moon' as indoor pools reopen

Swim club operators in Hamilton are beaming with excitement following Monday’s announcement that indoor swimming pools are among facilities that are now open.

‘We haven’t been in the water since the beginning of April,’ one director of aquatics says

The city announced the reopening of indoor pools on Monday. Pictured: members of Hamilton Aquatic Club. (Submitted by Theresa Malar)

Swim club operators in Hamilton are beaming with excitement following Monday's announcement that indoor swimming pools are among facilities that are now open.

Grey Fairley, director of aquatics at Golden Horseshoe Aquatic Club, said they can't wait to get back into the water.

"Personally, because it's my employment as well, I'm over the moon because I feel it's about time," Fairley told CBC News.

"We haven't been in the water since the beginning of April when all indoor activities were shut down by the government of Ontario.

"We haven't been in an outdoor body of water either, just due to the difficulty in being able to monitor the athletes in a safe and insurance-friendly way, so it's been challenging for sure."

The city announced the reopening of indoor pools on Monday with Paul Johnson, the director of Hamilton's emergency operations centre, saying "things are just getting more and more back to the level that people expect."

He said people can also get back into lane swimming, "which I know for many swimmers is a really important piece of our pools in this community."

'We find it a little unfair'

Fairley said pre-COVID-19, his club had 450 members, but that number dropped by 200 over the course of the pandemic.

He also expressed his disappointment at the lengthy closure.

"There has not been one case of COVID that has come from a swimming pool anywhere in North America … so from our perspective, we find it a little unfair, though understandable, why we haven't been able to participate in our activity," he said.

"The pools reopening is such a positive thing," says Theresa Malar from the Hamilton Aquatic Club. "We know that we can provide a pretty safe environment for our kids to get back in and get training." (Submitted by Theresa Malar)

Theresa Malar, executive director of the Hamilton Aquatic Club, said their numbers have dropped by around 60 per cent in the last year. But they too are "really excited" that indoor pools have reopened, she said.

"We've got a great new season on the horizon. And with the pools opening up, we're actually able to offer a four-week summer league to get our kids back in the water, connected to their coaches, connected again to their peers, back doing something positive and something healthy for their bodies and minds," Malar said.

'We are prepared to hit the water'

In spite of the unpredictable nature of COVID-19, Malar said they are hoping to run a regular season during the fall.

"We are prepared to hit the water, get our kids excited again and have fun racing again," she said.

"The pools reopening is such a positive thing. Swim Canada — which is the governing body — to our knowledge, they have seen zero incidents of transmission of COVID in the pool. So we know that we can provide a pretty safe environment for our kids to get back in and get training."

Hamilton Aquatic Club swimmers such as Kingsley Wainwright are getting back in the water. (Submitted by Theresa Malar)

Both Fairley and Malar are hoping that based on how the Canadian swimmers are doing at the Olympics, and the obvious attention to the sport, more youths would be motivated to get involved in swimming.

"Following up from the Olympics, watching our athletes shine over there in Japan, we're hoping that it inspires a new generation of kids to get into the water and try something new this fall," Malar said.

Swim lessons to start Aug. 9

Meanwhile, swim lessons, which Johnson said are in high demand, are set to start very soon.

"Registration will begin at the end of this week, which is July 30, and then we're actually going to resume those in city facilities and the actual lessons will start on Aug. 9," Johnson said.

"There will be capacity limits, there will be health protocols, there will be lots of screening in place to keep everybody safe. But again, if you're looking to sign your child up for swim lessons, Friday is that day."

The city's director of recreation, Chris Herstek, said staff teams are excited to welcome residents back to indoor pools, gyms, and seniors' facilities.

"The opening of 17 additional recreation facilities doubles the amount of public pool time available, offers indoor court sport and older adult program options, and sees the return of registered swimming lessons for the first time since last fall," Herstek wrote in an email to CBC News.

YWCA pool at 75 MacNab St. S. permanently closed

People who usually go swimming at the YWCA's 75 MacNab St. S. location will have to find another pool.

YWCA announced its permanent closure in February. "Since COVID-19 hit almost exactly one year ago," it said then, "every organization has had to face serious questions about how it operates, whether it is meeting its clients' needs, and what changes should be made going forward."

"YWCA Hamilton is no different. COVID-19 has exposed many of the deep needs in our community, and it has also given us an opportunity to reflect on how we can best serve those who rely on YWCA Hamilton for shelter, housing, escaping violence, education and support. 

"The pandemic has also offered us a chance to reimagine our space to make sure we're providing the most essential programs and services to the community."

The closure was a "difficult decision" for the leadership, the YWCA said.

"We know that so many Hamiltonians have had meaningful experiences in the pool over the years, from learning how to swim, to exercising after breast cancer, to finding a safe space in Hamilton's only public pool reserved exclusively for women," it said. "We are committed to honouring and celebrating these memories over the next several months."


Desmond Brown

Web Writer / Editor

Desmond joined CBC News in October 2017. He previously worked with The Associated Press, Caribbean Media Corporation and Inter Press Service. You can reach him at: desmond.brown@cbc.ca.


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