The Kin Centre arenas and Prince George Aquatic Centre will reopen later this year, after a decision made by city council on Monday night.
CN Centre, Rolling Mix Concrete Arena, Elksentre, Four Seasons Leisure Pool and the Prince George Conference and Civic Centre will remain closed for the remainder of the year as a cost-saving measure and are unlikely to reopen in 2021 unless the province enters Phase 4 of its Restart Plan. The decision was expected to add approximately $900,000 to the $3 million budget shortfall the city is facing this year, and roughly another $2 million to the nearly $6.4 million shortfall projected for 2021.
"This is good stuff, it's going to make people happy. But it's going to cost a lot of money," Coun. Garth Frizzell said. "With an additional $2 million to find, we have our work cut out for us."
Access to recreation is important for the physical and mental health of the city's residents, he said, but city council also has to manage the city's finances.
'This is brutal," Frizzell said. "But we have to do what we have to do."
Arena users held a rally outside city hall on Monday evening, and bombarded city council members with emails and phone calls requesting the city reopen its arenas.
City staff expected the Aquatic Centre could reopen by Sept. 8, and the Kin Centres in mid-August.
Coun. Brian Skakun said while arena users were the most vocal, there is often a "silent majority" who don't write letters or hold rallies.
"The users of the pool are as important as the users of the ice rinks," Skakun said.
The city also needs to talk to the Prince George Cougars and Spruce Kings and develop a plan to work with them, if the WHL and BCHL go back to playing games this year, he added.
None of the decisions made by council on Monday are set in stone, Coun. Kyle Sampson said. Pool and arena users will either show there is demand for those services, or they won't. If the pool or arenas aren't being well used, city council can opt to close them again.
In addition, the move to reopen the pool and arenas will put some of the city's laid off employees back to work, helping with the city's economic recovery, he added.
Coun. Cori Ramsay said there are some predictions the COVID-19 pandemic could last well into 2021 or 2022.
"Eventually these facilities have to reopen," she said. "(But) I think we need to look at fees and charges. Opening these facilities costs money. It costs more during COVID. If this is going to go until the end of 2021, into 2022, we really need to look at them."
Coun. Murry Krause said he's opposed to any increase in user fees, despite the higher costs of running the facilities during the pandemic. Raising fees would mean more people couldn’t afford to access those services, he said.