City aims to have ice in Art Hauser Centre by Aug. 10 — UPDATED

The City of Prince Albert plans to start up the ice plant at the Art Hauser Centre before the end of July, with the goal of hosting hockey camps starting on Aug. 10.

The City did not give a specific start up date in a facilities update sent out on Wednesday, saying only that it would be the week of July 27th.

Ice will be installed at the Kinsmen and Steuart Arenas at a later date.

The City plans to work with user groups to develop schedules when applicable. Anyone seeking to rent ice after Aug. 10 can call 306-953-4848 for more information.

The City also promised more information soon about reopening Frank J. Dunn Pool this fall. Saskatchewan Rivers Public School Division owns the pool. The City says they continue to work with the school division about reopening.

Typically, the Art Hauser ice plant starts up around the third week in July, but City of Prince Albert Community Services Director Jody Boulet said they pushed that date back after consulting with local sports teams and organizations.

Boulet said the extra precautions taken at the start of the pandemic will continue as rink employees start up operations.

“It did work well in the interim here for the 2020 (outdoor) season, so we are now switching our focus to how that looks for the arenas,” Boulet said on Thursday. “We have about two or three people on shift each day in the ice-making process, so we’re confident that the guidelines and the distancing requirements and the different precautions that we have to take will be adhered to.”

The ice-making schedule is in place at the Art Hauser, but the same can’t be said for the Kinsmen Arena or Dave Steuart Arena.

In a regular year, the Kinsmen ice plant would start up around Aug. 24, with the goal of opening immediately after the Labour Day long weekend. The Steuart ice plant typically doesn’t start until Sept. 21, with the goal of opening in early October.

The City is preparing for those regular dates, but hasn’t made a final decision yet. Boulet said it will depend on how quickly local sports leagues and clubs return to action. If few start up in the fall, the City will consider shutting both rinks down for the year and simply hosting everything out of the Art Hauser, but Boulet stressed that the decision was still a long way away.

“It does give our groups some certainty that the facility is going to be available for them so they can then plan accordingly, Boulet said. “But again, if the Western Hockey League season or if the Mintos or Bears season, for example, happen to be pushed back further, then we would most likely centralize all our bookings at the Art Hauser Centre and make sure that it’s used to full capacity.”

Boulet added that they may also halt the process if COVID cases start to flare up again and the provincial government halts the Re-Open Saskatchewan plan. Many sports organizations also have Return to Play guidelines, and the City will be monitoring those too.

The Prince Albert Minor Hockey Association (PMHA) is waiting until their AGM on July 27 before saying what those Return to Play guidelines will look like.

PAMHA technical director James Mays said they’re waiting on the result of a meeting between the Saskatchewan Hockey Association and the provincial government, which is scheduled for next week.

Mays said they’re prepared to start immediately after Labour Day—their usual start date. However, nothing has been finalized, and there are still questions about how many teams, players and parents will be allowed in a rink at any given time.

One scenario involves leaving a gap between ice times so no more than two teams are at the arena at one time. Another involves giving teams 15 minutes to exit a dressing room, then allowing arena staff ten minutes to disinfect it before the next team comes in.

However, Mays stressed that it’s fruitless to plan too far ahead without SHA and government input.

“We’re waiting for that meeting next week and then we’re going to be able to let everybody know, hopefully in more detail and with more specifics at our meeting,” he said.

The AGM will be held at 7 p.m. in the Midtown Hall on July 27. The meeting is open to the public, but no more than 40 people can be in attendance due to COVID restrictions.

Mays said that shouldn’t be a problem, since they typically get only 30 to 40 attendees anyway.

“We’re just getting flooded with texts and emails asking what’s going on,” he said. “Hopefully at that meeting we’ll have some specifics.”

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