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Should Prince George's Masich Place Stadium be staffed? One city councillor doesn't think so

Coun. Kyle Sampson questions the need for staffing, decreased hours at the stadium
Masich Place Stadium - scoreboard April 17, 2020
Masich Place Stadium got a new scoreboard complete with LED video display in April. (via City of Prince George)

When Masich Place Stadium eventually reopens, it will see a reduction in hours open to the public.

That’s because the City of Prince George isn’t able to cover the expense of transferring two members over from the Solid Waste Division to staff the facility.

Masich Place Stadium will remain closed until the current construction is complete, totalling $5 million in upgrades, and the necessary COVID-19 safety plans are in place.

Once it's open, however, the Public Track Walking Program will see a significant decrease in hours available.  

The track was previously open to the public from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., but now, it'll only be open 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. five days a week.

“The reason we went to 1 p.m. is to deal with the numbers,” said Director of Public Works Gina Layte Liston to council during Monday night's (June 15) meeting, noting the greatest number of walkers use the track in the morning and lunch hour.

“We also took into consideration that that is one shift so that allows us to move one staff person across to Masich Place, in the past with the previous hours that would be two staff people.”

Coun. Cori Ramsay asked whether or not the hours could be reviewed at a later date depending on public feedback.

“This seems to be what we are thinking will work at this point in time,” said City Manager Kathleen Soltis. 

“To do something different we would need to staff up which would be more expensive or need to reduce staff in a different area.”

However, Coun. Kyle Sampson questioned whether or not Masich Place Stadium needs to be staffed at all.

“One positive thing that has come out of COVID is it’s given us an opportunity to look at how we are doing things and how we are operating and functioning. I’m wondering if it’s a necessity to have a staff person onsite at Masich at all times,” said Sampson, after questioning whether nor not there had been any vandalism at the track.

“Prior to its renovation it had been around for a very long time and residents could access it for multiple hours a day and enjoy the facility and since we’ve done these renovations on it we are limiting the hours.”

However, Layte Liston said Masich is now a premier facility no different than the arenas where the city has full-time staff and provides customer service levels.

“Especially now with COVID we have enhanced safety levels that staff will be taking on,” added Layte-Liston, explaining staff will be responsible for both washrooms, high touch areas, and educating the public on social distancing.

“If we are not going to be staffing every one of the 80 playgrounds around our community, I have a hard time thinking that staff should be there to educate grown adults on how to keep personal hygiene at these facilities, so I struggle with that. I don’t see it as a necessity when we are trying to find ways to pinch and be more efficient,” responded Sampson.

“This is a facility that operated for a very long time without staffing on-site and is now a financial drain and giving fewer residents an opportunity to use this facility.”

City Manager Kathleen Soltis concluded the discussion by stating that staffing at Masich Place is a necessity.

“Staff clearly believe that Masich Stadium needs to be staffed. It’s a very expensive asset which has received a lot of renovation and is going to be geared up for the 2022 games," said Soltis.

"If it were to not be staffed, I would say don’t reopen it,” said Soltis.

Currently, Masich Place and the reopening dates for other civic facilities in Prince George are tentative on the province’s restart plan, augmented by the BC Recreation and Parks Association (BCRPA) Guideline for Restarting Operations.

These guidelines suggest indoor recreational facilities may be allowed to reopen under COVID-19 operational modifications as early as ‘Phase 3’ of the Provincial Reopen Plan earmarked to begin as early as July, but there is no exact date yet.