Oak Bay hopes to add some stability to fluctuating hours at its largest recreation centre.
Unfortunately, that consistency means cuts to operating hours.
Scheduled to be open to 6 a.m. to 12:30 the next morning, the recreation centre at 1975 Bee St, is popular far beyond Oak Bay due to its late-night options.
Like many industries post-pandemic, Recreation Oak Bay is suffering staffing challenges, Steve Meikle, director of parks recreation and culture told council during its Feb. 27 meeting.
“The concern is we’ve not been able to meet those service delivery standards, and looking to provide some stability and consistency for the public,” Meikle said.
Regular users are aware of the challenges since last summer, with sudden pool or weight room closures due to lack of staff in essential operational roles such as lifeguards, maintenance and fitness studio supervision. Limiting operating hours aims to prevent users from having to call ahead or face a surprise closure.
Meikle also noted many workers are young adults with transportation up there as the greatest barrier to staff working after 10 p.m. Options are limited after 11:30 p.m.
Council agreed with the proposal to limit hours from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. now through spring 2024 with staff to report back by June 2024 with a further analysis and a proposal building hours to implement in September 2024.
Coun. Carrie Smart, who noted a public building open that late is often a refuge for those in need of one, hoped to see staff tasked with revisiting hours in November rather than next year. She didn’t see support around the table for the change.
Recreation centre staff work closely with the public and were able to gauge the impact of changes on the ground, Meikle said. During the learning curve of the last eight months, staff have interacted with late-night patrons which does tend to be a set of primarily regulars, Meikle said. Of those 90 per cent adjusted their schedules, most of them shifting to early bird hours.
Arena and indoor field rentals after 10 p.m. have alternate systems in place, and will remain open late.
A voice that may have been missed made an appearance during public hearing.
A resident, and late night swimmer long before moving to Oak Bay strictly because of the hours, told council the centre is also extremely important to the recovery community. As a person in recovery from alcohol and substance use disorders, the pool has been a refuge, she said, and is key especially for those in early recovery.
“Having a safe sober place to be and socialize was extremely beneficial for my recovery and it continues to be so for other members of the public who are in recovery. It just may not reach your ears because there’s a long tradition of anonymity for people in recovery.”
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