Skaters take to the ice as the Oval opens for the season on Christmas Day in Halifax on Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

Nova Scotia’s recreational facilities struggle through most challenging COVID-19 wave

Nova Scotia’s recreational facilities struggle through most challenging COVID-19 wave

HALIFAX — Nova Scotia’s recreational facilities will likely need more short-term government support once the latest wave of COVID-19 subsides, a legislature committee was told Tuesday.

Representatives with the Recreation Facility Association of Nova Scotia appeared before the community services committee where they described the Omicron wave of novel coronavirus as the “most challenging yet” for their members.

The association represents 193 facilities across the province, including rinks, pools and community centres.

“The fifth wave has been the most challenging for our facilities … there’s not as much support, and the wage subsidy has stopped,” said Jennie Greencorn, the association’s executive director.

Greencorn added that many facilities have had to lay off staff over the last two years of the pandemic and have endured a series of closures because of restrictions.

Paul MacDonald, general manager of Centre 200, a sports arena and entertainment centre in Sydney, N.S., said the latest set of restrictions imposed in December came in midseason for many rinks and other facilities, resulting in revenue losses that won’t be recovered.

“And what hurts them (rinks) is their inability to fundraise in the off-season, which allows them to have some money available to open,” said MacDonald. As a result, many smaller rinks will need help in order to keep their doors open next season he said.

MacDonald added that larger facilities such as the one he operates have also been hit hard because of a lack of community, cultural and arts events. He said Centre 200 hasn’t hosted an event “of any sort” in at least 18 months.

“Most facilities whether they be rinks or pools or community halls … have expenses that are current and continuing, and our revenues have disappeared.”

Greencorn said the largest fixed expenses for most facilities are electricity and wages.

The province provided $1 million in emergency support grants for 56 non-profit groups in the recreation sector last November. The grants ranged from $1,000 to $50,000.

Greencorn told the committee that a recovery plan for the sector remains in “uncharted waters.”

“What our facilities should be doing right now is working on a long-term recovery strategy because they will need one, but they can’t see past this wave to the next season,” she said. “Any facility that is not attached to a municipality right now is at risk.”

Meanwhile, health officials reported one new death related to COVID-19 on Tuesday — a man in his 80s from the Halifax area.

With 13 new hospital admissions, a total of 345 people are in hospital with an infection. An additional 274 new lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 were also reported.

There are an estimated 3,630 active cases of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 1, 2022.

Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press