Island arenas set protocols, get ready to install winter ice

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LITTLE CURRENT—It’s September and that means the ice can’t be far behind—arena ice that is. At its August 31 meeting, Northeast Town council passed a COVID-19 protocol for use of the recreation centre’s ice surface and accompanying change rooms.

CAO Dave Williamson explained to council that the protocols are designed to safely use the arena, making note of the fourth wave and Delta variant on the horizon.

Mr. Williamson explained that use of the rec centre will be restricted to the three main user groups: Manitoulin Panthers, minor hockey and Skate Canada Manitoulin. There will be no public skating, rentals or canteen for the foreseeable future.

Requirements for the user groups are that arena staff must be given a completed form that includes all the players and parents’ names, including their full vaccination date or proof of a negative COVID-19 test in the past 24 hours as well as the signature and contact information of that user group’s coordinator. Those children under the age of 12 who cannot be vaccinated will not be required to show proof of vaccination or a negative test result.

Masks must be worn in the dressing rooms, stands and the lobby, but are not required to travel from the dressing room to the ice surface (and vice versa) or on the ice surface. The dressing rooms and high touch areas will be sanitized regularly by staff and one-way travel in the building will be implemented with specific entry and exist points. Facility capacities will be based on provincial rules at the time and a contact tracing log must be completed by users.

Councillor Al Boyd asked if the user groups were aware that ice use could be shut down with a moment’s notice at any time based on the ever-changing public health advice, to which Mr. Williamson said ‘yes.’

The ice-making process began this week in Little Current.

In Central Manitoulin, the ice in Mindemoya’s JH Burt Memorial Arena will go in on October 8 while in Providence Bay, the ice will go in during the third weekend in November.

“Provincial COVID-19 protocols have been fluid and will likely be changing before the start of the season based on provincial case counts, vaccination rates, variants, etc. and we will just adjust and adapt to those as they are announced,” explained Marcus Mohr, community development/outreach coordinator. Mr. Mohr said he was unsure if staff would have detailed protocols ready by the September 14 property committee meeting, where these items will be discussed. “It also depends on what Hockey Canada and the other associations recommend.”

In Wiikwemkoong, arena manager Mike Wabano said planning for ice is underway, but that it would rely on COVID-19 guidelines from public health.

In Gore Bay, clerk Stasia Carr said the arena’s guidelines for use are always in flux, depending on the latest edicts from public health, but that the municipality intends to have the ice in play at its usual time in mid-fall. Unlike the Northeast Town, events like public skating will continue, but spots must be booked in advance as there are rules as to how many are permitted in the facility at any time. It also the town’s hope to have the canteen opened.

The Expositor reached out to both Assiginack and M’Chigeeng regarding their ice schedules, but did not hear back as of press time Monday.