Hockey community unhappy despite capacity increases

The city is increasing the spectator limit to 45 in satellite arenas, citing the screening, the lack of buffer time between events.

THUNDER BAY – After increasing pressure from user groups, the City of Thunder Bay has agreed to increase the spectator capacity in its six satellite arenas to 45.

But Kelly Robertson, general manager of city services, says there is no practical way to increase the number any further given the time required to process each person entering the rink, the lack of buffer time between rentals and upcoming requirements for all users. be vaccinated from September 22.

The city initially agreed to allow between 17 and 43 spectators.

Despite the increase, the hockey community is still not satisfied and demands that provincial guidelines be followed, allowing the smaller capacity of 50% or 1,000 spectators.

Lawyer Lex MacArthur calls the “arbitrary” application of the new capacity figures unacceptable, saying in a Facebook post that the hockey community has done everything asked of it while pointing out that vaccination rates among those 12 and over will soon reach 80%.

“It is unacceptable that the same restrictions are applied as last fall when vaccination rates were zero. Our only request is that provincial guidelines be followed in our arenas allowing 50% capacity or 1,000 spectators, whichever is smaller, ”said MacArthur.

“Fifteen minutes outside the city, in Oliver-Paipoonge, Mayor Lucy Kloosterhuis and his team understood it. The Norwest Arena accommodates 275 spectators.

Robertson said the situation is different at Oliver Paipoonge. The community allows the Kam River Fighting Walleye of the Superior International Junior Hockey League to have up to 275 spectators at their games, but the township has also canceled ice reservations for an hour before their games to allow for times of the game. longer entry.

This is not possible in the city’s satellite arenas, without drastically reducing the ice capacity, and the problem will only worsen when proof of vaccination is required to enter.

It currently takes an average of about 14 seconds to process someone at the gate of an arena.

“Next Wednesday this whole process becomes more complicated because of the proof of vaccination. We still have to do the cleaning between the user groups and the changing rooms – the high contact areas. We have limited staff in our indoor satellite arenas, ”said Robertson.

“For a lot of activities, how high do you really have to go above 45 spectators in the stands? There could be, and if we’re willing to consider canceling existing ice reservations to increase spectator capacity, if we can find more staff to help with COVID verification and proof of vaccination, if we can maintain physical distance in the very small public areas of our indoor satellite arenas, these would be some of the requirements that need to be in place for us to exceed and meet those higher spectator capacities. “

The city first took the area of ​​the spectator area and divided it by eight to establish a capacity limit in each arena. After speaking with Thunder Bay Fire Rescue and the Thunder Bay District Health Unit, they determined that 45 was a number that could be handled safely.

Robertson said the city has yet to set a capacity limit at Fort William Gardens, home to both the SIJHL Thunder Bay North Stars and the Lakehead Thunderwolves men’s hockey team.


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