Penticton Community Centre pool

It will almost be like having your own pool next time you go for a swim at the Penticton Community Centre.

“You come in, you can have your lane for the one-hour time slot and then you have to leave, and that’s simply because we can’t have people crossing paths and we have to be able to maintain social distancing,” Bregje Kozak, the city’s recreation manager, told council Tuesday during an update on the facility’s restart plan.

The pool is tentatively set to reopen in early August, but by reservation only.

Swimmers will have to go online in advance to book a lane. Patrons will wait outside the centre in carefully spaced groups until their time slots arrive, at which point they’ll be escorted inside by a staff member. The wading pool, hot tub and sauna will all remain closed.

Combined with only running Monday through Friday, eight hours a day, the number of people in and out of the pool on a regular day will drop to 140 from 1,000 pre-pandemic.

A similar booking system will be used for the community centre’s fitness room, which is also tentatively set to reopen in early August.

Patrons will exercise for an hour and 15 minutes in groups of 12, reducing to 60 the number of people visiting the room each day, down from 350 on a busy pre-pandemic day.

Kozak said the overarching plan for reopening the community centre, which used to welcome 1,500 to 2,000 visitors per day, is to do it in four stages that slowly add people and programming, all while complying with health guidelines from no fewer than seven outside agencies.

Coun. Katie Robinson wondered if it’s even worth the trouble from a financial standpoint.

“Going from 1,000 people a day to 140 a day, at what point do we seriously look at just shutting the facility until such time as we can open it up to the new normal?” said Robinson.

Kozak replied her staff is aiming to run the pool and gym on a break-even basis, in part by cutting costs. For example, of the approximately 30 lifeguards who used to work at the pool, only four full-timers have been called back because there will be so few people swimming at any one time.

Council is due to hear from Kozak again on July 21 regarding a new fee structure that would charge a flat rate for everybody while keeping pre-existing memberships on hold until further notice.

Mayor John Vassilaki urged council to look beyond the operating costs involved with reopening the centre, which closed in mid-March.

“I know finances are very, very important in running a community and making sure our heads are above water, but we can’t keep people locked up in their homes indefinitely,” he said.

“We have to consider the public (good) beside the finances. We can’t just look at one and not the other.”