Long lineups to register for swimming and skating at Hillcrest Community Centre in Vancouver left many frustrated with the Park Board over the weekend.
In addition to the lineup that wrapped around the lobby, the rec centre closed early over the last few weekends. The facility's aquatic and fitness centres are supposed to remain open until 7 p.m. on weekends but closed at 3 p.m. on Saturday (Jan. 7) and 2 p.m. on Sunday, further disgruntling locals.
In a tweet that has since amassed over 17K views, Vancouverite Matthew Laird calls upon the city to build additional facilities to keep up with the growing population in addition to continuing to refurbish existing aging rec centres which is the city's current plan.
A representative for the City of Vancouver tells V.I.A. in an emailed statement that "the lineups at Hillcrest are due to several factors including lifeguard availability, lifeguard-to-swimmer ratios and increased demand on weekends. Alerts notifying residents of these challenges and to expect reduced capacity/longer lineups are posted on our website."
According to a spokesperson for the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation, the reduced hours and closures were to "facilitate essential safety training in drowning prevention for staff."
"Though we understand the disappointment some residents may have felt at Hillcrest’s reduced operations this weekend, this training is crucial for public safety," reads the statement.
More facilities would not solve the problem, says the City of Vancouver
The city urges residents to use one of the 40 other community centres when a facility is closed for planned maintenance, training or due to staffing shortages.
In response to the public's demand for additional rec centres, the city says, "without staff, recreational facilities cannot operate to their full potential, therefore additional facilities would not alleviate any of the current pressures on the system unless staff availability increased substantially."
The online conversation amassed by the weekend's incident includes suggestions that the city increase community centre fees, pay staff better, and hire more lifeguards. Others are comparing the capacity and hours of Vancouver facilities to those out in the suburbs.
"We have fewer facilities and shorter hours," remarks one Vancouverite on social media. "When Vancouver facilities are closed at 5, Richmond’s are open until 9. Holidays? Vancouver is closed, Richmond is open."
Another local points out the long wait to renovate the old Hastings Community Centre which has been on the shortlist for renewal for years.