Local arena

Arenas in the West Prince will be opening a week later than usual because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Back in March, the arenas were also forced to close between two to four weeks earlier than usual for the same reason, something that had a major financial impact, as provincial hockey tournaments, along with the championship for the Senior Men’s Hockey Tournament, were taking place at that time. Jillian Trainor photo

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As arenas in the area prepare to open for the season, the board of directors for each one has been taking steps to ensure the safety of all those who enter the respective buildings because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

From sanitizing to ensuring social distancing is being maintained, there’s a lot to do.

“From what I understand there’s a capacity of 50 people in the arena at one time,” said Alan Rennie, manager of the Jacques Cartier Arena in Alberton. “That’s certainly going to impact things, people will not be able to come in and linger around, and it’s going to affect our canteen and things like that, but we’ve got to deal with it.”

As a result, some canteens won’t be selling their full menu, as is the case with the O’Leary Community Sports Centre.

Rink manager Jeff Ellsworth said the canteen will only be selling things that will allow people to get in and out quickly.

“We’re doing pop, chips, bars, Gatorade, water, that sort of thing,” he explained. “As far as food, we’re not going to do chicken fingers, we’re not going to do popcorn chicken, hamburgers, things that take a bit of time. We’re going to do french fries, fries and gravy, because that’s really quick. Once things start opening up more, and more restrictions get lifted, we’ll introduce more menu items. We don’t want a lot of people waiting in the canteen for long periods of time, so we’re going to try to keep it going really quick.”

Other measures rinks are implementing include contact tracing, giving teams two dressing rooms to use instead of one, and setting up separate entrances and exits into and out of the arena. The heated section of the O’Leary rink will also be off limits to the public for the first few months, something Mr Ellsworth said could change depending on whether or not more restrictions are lifted.

Rinks in West Prince usually begin their season in early to mid October, but this year also be opening about a week later than normal.

This will have an impact, though likely not as large as the one they felt at the end of the 2019-2020 season. Because of the pandemic, rinks were forced to close between two to four weeks earlier than normal, right when provincial tournaments were supposed to take place.

“It was a little bit tough, but it was probably tougher on the teams,” said Mr Rennie. “We were supposed to have two weekends of provincial tournaments and we didn’t have either one, so it did affect us financially, but it had to be done.”

Along with provincial games, rinks host figure skating events, public ice skating events, recreational and senior hockey, private rentals, and other events that bring people to the arenas.

Timmy Gaudet, manager for the Tignish Credit Union Arena, said the restrictions will definitely have an impact on the arena’s season.

“We’re not even sure yet if we’re going to be able to open canteen facilities,” he said. “As of right now they have a certain amount of time to leave the rink and other players can’t come in until they’re gone. It’s all going to have an impact. It will be nice when this (pandemic) is all over.”

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