The Sturgeon Falls and Verner arenas are closed for the duration of the winter, as a result of the North Bay Parry Sound Health Unit lockdown getting extended another week.
In their Feb. 2 meeting, West Nipissing council instructed community services director Stephan Poulin to close both arenas if the current stay-at-home order was extended beyond Feb. 11. At that point, there were 194 total COVID cases in the region, six active.
Following a COVID-19 outbreak at North Bay’s Lancelot apartment building over that weekend, which included three cases of a variant of concern, Dr. Jim Chirico Medical Officer of Health, recommended to the province that the region’s lockdown be extended to Feb. 16. (It was later further extended to Feb. 22 at the earliest.) As a result, any hopes of wrapping up a regular season for local hockey leagues was dashed.
“We are saddened they made a decision to close the facilities,” said Chris Mcleod, acting president of West Nipissing Minor Hockey in an email. “We really just wanted the season to continue. Life is better when you are able to watch your kids play.”
WNMHA will be contacting parents shortly about how refunds for this season will be issued.
The Verner Skating Club was not quite ready to throw in the towel just yet.
“We are investigating other options and will provide an email with more information in the next few days,” read an update on their Facebook page. Verner skaters started the year practicing in Sudbury and Warren as West Nipissing didn’t open its first arena until mid-October.
The local arenas had been unused since the province-wide shutdown began on Dec. 26 and Poulin estimated the weekly cost for keeping both open was around $8,000. They typically close around the end of March, which would have provided leagues five to six weeks to finish their seasons. Most groups were looking to resume play, as Poulin was projecting to bring in $5,200 a week in revenue upon reopening.