This time of year, members of the Canadian Dolphins Swim Club would usually be training in Vancouver’s outdoor Second Beach pool and signing members up for the coming indoor season.
This year, though, most swimmers in the club have been out of the pool for four months due to the coronavirus pandemic, and uncertainty about the future means no registrations for a season that might not happen.
The few outdoor city pools that are open aren’t accepting bookings and all of Vancouver’s indoor pools — like those in many communities around the province — remain closed.
The club has negotiated a deal with the private Jewish Community Centre that’s allowing a lucky few to get into a smaller pool, for less time, at twice the price of their usual home base at the Vancouver Aquatic Centre.
Given that many private rec centres have reopened — with precautions — Dolphins’ head coach Kelly Taitinger doesn’t understand why the municipal pools haven’t reopened.
Taitinger says the club has reached out to the Vancouver Park Board numerous times in the last four months, but has received no reply.
“We’re trying to urge the city to get back open, we’re trying to get our kids back swimming,” he said.
“If you were a business, you wouldn’t have many customers after this, but we’re sort of handcuffed by the city having the pool.”
Dolphins’ board president Jeannine Lo has two kids on the team, and described the situation as “devastating.”
“We have lost the season, we are trying to recover by looking forward, and we’d really like to know when we can get back to our home pool,” she said.
No one with the park board would agree to an on-camera interview Friday. A spokesperson said the board is aware of the demand for pool use, but that there was no timeline to reopen the facilities.
Paul Faoro heads CUPE BC, the union representing pool and community centre workers.
He estimates as many as 16,000 of the union’s members remain laid off.
“Dr. (Bonnie) Henry in provincial health says they can be opened, but they need to be opened safely,” he said.
“It clearly is not COVID-related, given that the private centres have opened up.”
Faoro believes municipalities, many struggling with COVID-related holes in their own budgets, are keeping the facilities closed to try and shore up the bottom line.
But he said frustration is building among taxpayers who aren’t getting the services they’re paying for.
“Kids, students should be swimming, should be in the rinks, but they’re closed,” he said.
In the meantime, Taitinger said several hundred members of the Dolphins are sticking to yoga and dryland training, but he says it’s just not the same as being in the pool.
“For great swimmers, 10,000 hours is what you need to become better at the sport, doing it over and over again, getting videotaped, rehearsing, having a coach correct you,” he said.
“Swimmers have to be in the water to get better at being in the water.”
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