The Cowichan Aquatic Centre will reopen to the public for many of its services on Oct. 13, but with restrictions related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
North Cowichan’s council gave the green light for the facility to reopen its doors, which have been shut since March 16 when the pandemic first struck the area, at its council meeting last week.
But Jason Blood, the municipality’s manager of recreation, said in a staff report that the reopening of the CAC will resume in phases under North Cowichan’s restoration of programs and services plan.
That means the facility will only allow approximately 5,000 patrons a month for now, down dramatically from the approximately 25,000 patrons that attended the CAC every month in normal times.
The CAC will only permit small groups access for pre-booked pool or gym activities in the first phases of the reopening, and other activities are expected to be added when authorities deem it safe to do so.
Blood said the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly impacted the model under which aquatic facilities can operate.
“New and enhanced safety equipment and protocols, increased sanitation of surfaces and greatly decreased attendance numbers have all been included in the reopening plan to meet all current provincial health orders and industry guidelines,” he said.
While the CAC remained closed since the outbreak of the pandemic, the regular annual maintenance tasks and the scheduled expansion and renovation to the facility have moved ahead.
Construction began on June 3 and is tentatively projected to be completed later this year, but it has been determined that the facility can be reopened while the renovations are ongoing.
“The CAC reopening plan is designed to put safety first, while supporting a broad section of our community with the resumption of recreation activities,” Blood said.
“The facility is part of the community lifestyle and provides alternative recreational opportunities for its citizens. The reopening plan is consistent with similar facilities on Vancouver Island and throughout the province. Excitement from the community regarding the CAC renovation project has been steadily increasing, with staff receiving daily inquiries from the public.”
Blood said the long shutdown and the limited reopening of the CAC comes with a cost for the municipality.
Blood anticipates that revenue from the facility will be reduced by up to $900,000 by the end of 2020, while expenditures are expected to be reduced by between $350,000 and $450,000 by the end of the year.
“If the current status of the pandemic continues and all restrictions remain in place for 2021, an increased operational deficit of approximately $508,000 is anticipated,” he said.