Saskatoon

City of Saskatoon plans to reopen pools, leisure centres in Phase 4

Leisure centres to be opened using a staggered approach, starting with the Shaw Centre and Lakewood Civic Centre.

Phase 4 openings now split in two, outdoor pools and spray parks can open sooner

The City of Saskatoon is looking at plans to reopen leisure facilities, including outdoor pools. (Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press)

The City of Saskatoon is getting leisure centres and pools ready for reopening.

Last week, the provincial government split Phase 4 of its COVID-19 reopening plan into two parts.

The first part will allow youth day camps, outdoor pools, spray parks and some recreational sports facilities to reopen. The second part will include indoor pools, rinks, libraries, museums and art galleries.

While an official date for Phase 4 hasn't been set yet, administration will begin preparing to reopen leisure centres now, noting that Phase 3 openings were announced earlier than anticipated.

The city's plans are detailed in a report passed by council Thursday. At the meeting, counselors noted the flexible nature of the situation and said they are prepared to adapt as necessary. 

"The province's plans have been changed and have been adjusted based on how we're doing, so we need to be adaptive and responsive as well," said Pamela Goulden-McLeod, director of the city's Emergency Management Organization.

Once Phase 4 begins, leisure centres will open using a staggered approach, starting with the Shaw Centre and Lakewood Civic Centre.

The city's plan also includes a soft opening for staff, allowing personnel to test new safety measures and gauge public interest.

The phased reopening will also allow administration to hire staff back. The majority of leisure centre staff were laid off during COVID-19 and summer staff were not recruited as they normally would be.

If everything goes well, registered programs like swimming lessons would start Sept. 1.

The report said indoor pools remain the top priority, as they can be used regardless of the weather. However, the administration is looking to recruit staff to open outdoor pools as well, noting that city residents will want to take advantage of outdoor facilities during the summer months. 

City of Saskatoon director of recreation and community development Lynne Lacroix said the biggest challenge the city will face when reopening these facilities is staffing. She said between 170 and 180 part time and casual staff have been laid off during the pandemic.  

"The resources that will be required to undertake this ambitious plan are great ... just to ensure the facilities and resources are indeed available," she said. "It will require no less than about 400 staff. Right now, the recreation and community development team has about 50 staff currently employed, so it will be a large undertaking."

Phased approach

The Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park and Zoo will also open in a phased approach, opening outdoor exhibits first and indoor exhibits two weeks later.

City crews are expected to need two weeks of maintenance to be able to open sports fields.

Crews are also working on reopening the ACT Arena, laying down ice on both the hockey and figure skating rinks.

Spray parks have already been prepared for reopening.

Administration is also looking at opening 11 summer playground programs around the city. Priority has been determined by food bank usage and household income.

The city doesn't know how busy leisure centres will be when they reopen. It cited an Insightrix Research poll that showed only 34 per cent of people were comfortable going back to the gym. A City of Saskatoon survey showed only 32 per cent of people were likely to use a leisure centre in the first month.

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