OLEAN — The ice is just about ready, but throngs of ice skaters will be sitting on the bench a while longer.
City Youth and Recreation Department workers are putting the finishing touches on the ice at the William O. Smith Recreation Center, said coordinator Kris Shewairy.
Youth Skate and Shoot will return this week, with sessions held today, Wednesday and Friday from 3:30 to 5 p.m., at $5 per person. The Adult Skate and Shoot will be held from 10 a.m.to noon Tuesdays, and Wednesdays and Fridays from 5 to 6:30 and 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Admission is $7.50.
But thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, many activities planned each winter are now in limbo, while others are being pared down in an attempt to not spread the disease.
Planned ice hockey games, scrimmages and open skating — which can attract more than 100 skaters per session — are on hiatus. At the rec center, all the benches and picnic tables are stacked up, unavailable for use to keep down the number of surfaces that need to be cleaned.
Several guidelines are in place for the skate and shoot sessions:
• No more than 25 participants, including goalies.
• Participants must sign in, and will be asked for their phone number for contact tracing.
• The facility will be open 15 minutes prior to the session. Participants are expected to leave immediately after the session ends.
• Participants must be dressed for hockey prior to arrival, as locker rooms are to be used only for putting on ice skates and goalies to put on additional protective gear.
• No games or contact allowed.
• Showers will not be available, however lobby bathrooms will be open — but can not be used for changing.
“We’re constantly checking New York State guidance — it’s just like the pool,” Shwairy said, noting restrictions at the Franchot wading pool this summer went smoothly while still allowing hundreds of residents to cool off in the heat.
The rules at the ice arena are the same as those being used at other ice rinks across the state, he added.
With luck, he said, open skating may return later in the season, “but it’s not up to me.”
And while birthday parties and other events are off the schedule for the time being, groups like hockey leagues can still get access to the ice for non-contact practices.
“The ice can also be rented privately for $150 an hour, as available,” he said, however that will not be a way to get around the restrictions. “The regulations still have to be followed — no games and the like.”
At least one activity will return later this fall.
Ice bocce — like the lawn sport, but played with small curling-type stones — is expected to return this season due to its no-contact nature, Shewairy said. However, the game needs the ice to be used first by those on skates in order to give the surface enough variation to make it safe to walk across. The sport was introduced two years ago, he said, and groups from children to senior citizens have enjoyed participating.
Shewairy had expected 2019-20 to be the longest ice season on record at the facility, opening its doors to skaters the day after Labor Day 2019. However, the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the rink almost a month before scheduled.
The center opened in 1979, and underwent a year-long, $2.1 million renovation in 2016-17. This summer, city Department of Public Works parks crews and Youth and Rec workers repainted the building, Shewairy said, saving taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars compared to an outside contractor.
“I couldn’t do it without these guys,” Shewairy said, crediting the workers led by facility manager John Andhor for their hard work getting the arena ready and clean for visitors this fall and winter.
For updates on programming, visit the Youth and Rec program on Facebook or on Twitter, @OleanYouthRec, for updates.