Dalhousie University’s athletics facilities and programs could be fully open by the end of March, said associate director of operations and facilities Chris Keough.
As Nova Scotia began easing restrictions over three phases on Feb. 14, the department announced its own easing of restrictions in an email to students on Feb. 11. While appointments are still in place for activities at the Dalplex fitness hall and elsewhere, there are now 70 spaces per hour time slot at the fitness hall while three people are allowed to book a pool lane at the same time.
Tigers games at the Dalplex will allow 50 per cent capacity and activities such as noon hoops will return.
At the moment, it is solely the physical distancing requirements set by Nova Scotia holding back a full-on reopening. Keough said the Dalplex will continue to operate using appointments for the time being.
“The alternative is to have people wait in lineups, as we have a capacity set,” Keough said. “To me, it’s a better service to offer people appointments, knowing they are guaranteed to come in at the time of the appointment, as opposed to the time they choose to and having to wait in line for 30 or 40 minutes.”
Keough added that one reason appointment availability has increased is there have been “an average of eight to 10 no-shows” per time slot this school year. Having more appointments, he said, will help make up those spaces.
Some intramural activity returning
While some activities are opening up more, others aren’t resuming this year. Lack of facility availability has ended seasons in intramural sports such as curling, floor hockey and co-ed soccer leagues. Others, such as women’s competitive basketball and volleyball, are done because of low registration.
For leagues that are continuing, no playoffs will be held in any of the roughly four weeks Dal was able to schedule intramurals. Keough said it “wouldn’t make sense” to have playoffs at this point in the year.
“There’s not a lot of point in running three weeks of games and then playoffs,” he said. “There just wasn’t the time.”
The remaining intramural leagues are scheduled to run until March 24, less than two weeks before exams at Dal begin. Keough said factors such as hesitancy to play in light of current COVID-19 activity or many students not yet back at campus were considered in the program’s setup for the rest of the year.
To account for those students, the intramural department gave participants the option to leave up until Feb. 18.
Implications of further provincial opening steps
The athletics department doesn’t yet have a plan set for each upcoming phase of reopening, which the province said are each expected to last about a month. That means the next reopening phase, “Phase Two,” is slated to begin March 7.
That phase maintains social distancing requirements but will allow greater gatherings. For instance, the Dalplex can boost capacity for Tigers games from 50 per cent capacity to 75 per cent, in time for the end of basketball regular seasons and start of volleyball playoffs.
Gyms can return to “maximum capacity possible with social distancing and masks” at this stage and day camps can allow up to 30 participants per group.
Such restrictions won’t be required by the province in Phase Three, expected to begin March 21, and Keough said the department intends to open up as much as the province will allow it. Certain activities, such as small fitness classes and racquet sport courts, may retain appointment bookings past Phase Three.
“Each step is a little bit of a bigger jump,” Keough said. “A lot will depend on when the province actually goes forward with those steps. Our hope is if we’re on the path for Phase Three, there are no restrictions.”
Keough received his wish on Feb. 23, as Premier Tim Houston announced that all restrictions will be dropped on March 21.