Soldotna approved a mitigation plan to reopen the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex this Friday.
The plan opens up the center to hockey practices and allows spectators, as long as they wear masks and socially distance in the stands.
Parents from the Kenai Peninsula Hockey Association have been asking the city to remove spectator limits at the rink since this fall. In mid November, Soldotna closed the complex and several other buildings to the public.
The plan as originally proposed by Parks and Recreation Director Andrew Carmichael at Wednesday night’s meeting did not originally allow for spectators. But Council Member Pamela Parker successfully introduced an amendment to open up the stands, with masks and 6 feet of social distancing required.
“A lot of the feedback we heard from the public was that dropping young children, even walking them in and dropping them, was not feasible for some families, particularly if they’re going to be required to wear masks while on the ice," she said.
The council introduced the subject as a “discussion” and did not ask for public comment at the meeting. Carmichael says the city has been meeting with parents from the Kenai Peninsula Hockey Association to discuss plans.
Tamara Miller thanked the council after the decision was made for reopening.
“I do still have some serious concerns that I think you need to address," she said. "I think the U6 and U8 — that means under-6 and under-8 age groups — should have been addressed separately when discussing wearing masks on the ice.”
She said she worried young kids will not be able to verbalize if they can’t breathe while skating with their masks on. Earlier in the meeting, Parker introduced an amendment to alter the on-ice mask requirement, but that amendment failed.
The city ordered special masks to attach to players’ helmets to be distributed to players at no cost.
As part of the new plan, players will not be allowed to use team rooms. Games and scrimmages are not currently allowed and there is a limited number of skaters allowed on the ice at once — 44 people for U-6 and U-8 teams, 32 for all other teams and 25 skaters during freestyle hours.
Earlier this fall, an outbreak of the virus was linked to a hockey tournament that brought together teams from cities across the state, including Soldotna and Kenai. Mask wearing and spectator limits were enforced at the tournament.