East Ferris is pulling the plug on its community centre rink and curling ice in Astorville due to the uncertainty of escalating provincial restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jason Trottier, chief administrative officer, said Thursday that the ice will come out Monday following discussions during their community emergency management meeting.
“We tried to make it work,” Trottier said about the decision to open the rink this winter despite not knowing if groups would be able to rent enough hours to justify the expenditure.
“But it doesn’t make sense now,” he added, noting the provincial restrictions extending the shutdown until Feb. 10 was only leaving a month or so of hockey. And Trottier said there’s no guarantee there won’t be further extensions.
The cost of keeping the ice plant running without customers and prospect of more dead time without revenue left little recourse, he said.
George Suszter, president of East Nipissing Minor Hockey Association, said the decision isn’t surprising considering the complexity of the pandemic restrictions, cost and unknown timeframes.
“I understand their decision because the taxpayers will have to pay the brunt of the cost,” he said, although as a sport program administrator it “would be nice to have had an option.”
Suszter said it is “kind of sad to hear because even if the players are not able to play hockey right now they had hope in a month it would come back.”
The North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit was telling municipalities Thursday to close their outdoor rinks as well to further protect from viral transmission.
The province had said Tuesday that outdoor rinks could stay open if protocols and limits on numbers were maintained. And Trottier said East Ferris was going to keep their Corbeil rink in the Bill Vrebosch Park open before hearing the health unit edict.
Suszter said they actually had almost 90 percent of their membership totals from the previous year even though it was under modified playing rules.
Hockey was giving the youth and the parents an opportunity for in-person interaction that’s important for mental health, he said.
“It brought joy and happiness to the kids, it was a glimmer of normality” in unprecedented times, Suszter said. “People need to see there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Mankind is not made to isolate from others.”
Dave Dale is a Local Journalism Reporter with BayToday.ca. LJI is funded by the Government of Canada.