Spectators are still being allowed inside the Claude Parish Memorial Arena. (Houston Today photo)

Spectators are still being allowed inside the Claude Parish Memorial Arena. (Houston Today photo)

Spectators still allowed in arena

Council had been asked to consider a ban

Houston council has affirmed its policy of allowing spectators inside the Claude Parish Memorial Arena within COVID-19 pandemic orders and guidance.

The decision came at a special meeting held Oct. 27 when council members had been asked to consider banning spectators which, in effect, would have permitted more on ice participants at any given time.

When the arena re-opened Oct. 1 the protocol put in place through a provincial health order and guidance from the BC Recreation and Parks Association (BCRPA) allowed for 20 spectators and 20 participants, the latter number including coaches, to be present inside the arena.

The public health order “limits gatherings to 50 people maximum and BCRPA advised a total of 20 people were acceptable on the ice to ensure appropriate physical distancing could take place,” District leisure services director Tasha Kelly wrote in a memo to council. “Using these guidelines, the arena allowed one parent/guardian per partcipant on the ice.”

But that protocol through public health orders and BCRPA guidance shifted in mid-October with information coming from the latter organization that “clearly implies no spectators until sometime in 2021,” Kelly continued.

She said two private facilities on the Lower Mainland had been closed indefinitely following confirmed positive cases of COVID-19.

The BCRPA then followed by urging all facilities to follow the no-spectator recommendation to “create a united front on compliance,” Kelly added.

The effect of banning spectators would then permit more on ice participants and keeping within the gathering limit of 50 people, the result would be allowing games to occur.

“The facility would easily comply with the public health order of less than 50 at a gathering without spectators,” Kelly said.

Preliminary contact with Houston Minor Hockey and Houston Ringette found each willing to adopt a no-spectator rule, she continued.

“Minor Hockey acknowledges this situation could be ideal in ensuring a quick return to games. Houston Ringette sees the value in non spectators as the current policy heavily impacts the number of practice times added to accommodate [player] registration,” Kelly added.

On the basis of information provided, a recommendation was put to council to “revise current arena protocols to remove spectators from the facility until a future date to be determined.”

But in debate on the matter, council decided to stay with the current spectator and participant protocol.

“Although the provincial health officer’s order allows for up to 50 spectators, at the end of the day each facility may have restrictions in place that limit usage further than that,” said District of Houston chief administrative officer Gerald Pinchbeck.

“At this time, the District will continue permitting up to 20 participants and 20 spectators to be present in the facility. Moving forward, we will be working with ice users to adjust our safety plan to allow for larger numbers of participants and a proportionate number of spectators as directed by Council.”

Kelly also said there have been inquiries about the District live-streaming on-ice activities.

That would be an added expense as the District does not now have that capability and the broadcasting of events involving minors could raise privacy concerns, she noted.

“However, if the individual users chose to stream their practices/games they are free to do so at their own cost and liability,” Kelly stated.