Brussels Skating Club moves ahead under restrictions
BY DENNY SCOTT
The Brussels Skating Club is going ahead with its 2020/2021 season, however, due to COVID-19, it will be a significantly different experience for all involved.
A representative of the club, Erica Koch, told The Citizen that everything is changing this year, from the number of participants to how skaters get ready. The club has also had to change the kind of programming it offers.
“We are going ahead,” she said, adding that last Thursday evening was the club’s first night on the ice. “Every week is kind of a wait-and-see situation, but we’re going ahead for the time being.”
The club has decreased its on-ice time due to having fewer programs both because of COVID-19 restrictions and decreased interest, which Koch said is tied to the pandemic.
“We have waning registrations for older skaters,” she said. “We made the decision to save money and get rid of a little bit of ice time this year.”
At the other end of the spectrum, the educational program for younger skaters aged 3-6 has also been cancelled because of rules prohibiting contact between skaters, Koch said, adding that teaching aides would also not be allowed on the ice.
“You have to be past a certain level to be able to skate this year,” she said.
Skaters are asked to come to the arena dressed, Koch said, and to not come too early for their ice time.
“We’re not allowed in the building until 15 minutes before our ice time,” she said. “We have to do a COVID screening in that time as well.”
Koch said the one good part of the situation is that the dressing rooms are available for skaters to put their skates on, the only wardrobe change that is permitted on the premises.
Because of the pandemic and the above restrictions, Koch estimates the club’s roster is down 50 per cent this year. She said that, while some have said they will return for the next season if it’s safe, not all have made comments like that, which concerns Koch for the viability of the program going forward.
“There is a concern that there will be a drop in numbers going forward,” she said.
Other aspects of the skating program have also changed, like the year-end celebrations, themed nights and fundraising.
Not being able to fundraise is going to make the 2020/2021 season one in which the club will have to operate at a loss, Koch said.
“Normally we sell Skate Ontario raffle tickets and do two Atwood Heritage fundraising orders, one in the fall and one in the winter,” she said. “We can’t do that. With fundraising totally on hold, we will be running the year at a loss.”
Koch feels the club will rebound, however it’s going to take some help from members and parents.
“We are looking for executive members,” she said. “It’s tough to keep a [small town skating program] going and we need people to step forward.”
She said that more than half of the current executive no longer have children in the program, so there needs to be buy-in from parents of newer participants. She also said that, because helpers for younger skating groups need to be from within the club due to insurance concerns, they need older skaters to help out. She said outside help can be brought on, however it would need to be consistent to make it worth buying extra insurance for them.
The Brussels Skating Club’s CanSkate levels 2-6 are being offered this year, Koch said, and they take to the ice on Thursday nights.