The Stuart Park ice rink in January 2020. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)

The Stuart Park ice rink in January 2020. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)

Popular Kelowna outdoor ice rink will open amid COVID-19 pandemic

City council approved COVID-related changes to the Stuart Park ice rink’s operations

Kelowna’s popular outdoor Stuart Park ice rink will open this winter.

But how it operates will be in the hands of its users and how well they follow COVID-19 protocols.

Kelowna city council approved changes to the rink’s operating model on Monday, Oct. 26, as Interior Health said status quo operations are not recommended due to the nature of the site.

When it opens on Dec. 1, the rink will operate similarly to normal, but if guidelines aren’t being followed, access could be restricted or closed altogether.

The city plans to open the rink on a casual-use basis during the usual hours of 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., but no skate rental, fire pit or food vendors will be available. Signage will be displayed to remind skaters of COVID-19 guidelines and safety protocols, as well staff will be on-site during prime hours to monitor for gathering sizes and physical distancing.

“The assumption here is that the lack of services would limit the number of people,” Doug Nicholas, the city’s sport and event manager, told council.

If crowd sizes and physical distancing guidelines are not being followed and ensuring public safety proves too challenging, rink operations would be adjusted to a more restricted-use model.

That would see the site enclosed with temporary fencing and an online registration system manage participant numbers during prime hours. Skate sessions would last one hour, with a maximum of 50 participants at any given time. City staff would again be on-site to manage registration lists, control entry/exit points and oversee operations. Drop-in use would still be available during non-prime hours. Limited services, such as the fire pit, could be made available under this model, said Nicholas.

If safety issues still present as a problem at that point, the rink would close entirely and the ice would be removed.

“I’m surprised we haven’t declared skating as an essential service in Canada,” quipped Coun. Charlie Hodge.

READ MORE: Snow removal on track despite early snowfall: City of Kelowna

READ MORE: Kelowna outreach group hopes winter shelter comes soon

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: michael.rodriguez@kelownacapnews.com


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