Halifax Rinks to Increase Spectator Size

After getting the go-ahead to increase the number of spectators allowed at hockey games, select rinks are now raising that number again. The initial capacity increase jumped from an allowance of just 50 spectators to 100 initially, but certain arenas will now let up to 200 spectators in.

Fans in the Halifax region were critical of the initial capacity limits, with parents of hockey players starting a petition to put pressure on lawmakers to change the number of spectators allowed.

Demand and Supply

Before the decision for Halifax Regional Municipality owned arenas to allow more spectators, only 50 people were allowed entrance at once. An online petition, started by Mike Kydd and parents of players who wanted to be able to sit-in on games again, called on government officials to rethink expansion and gained nearly 6,000 signatures.

Adjusting the Numbers

In response to the petition, select rinks across Halifax were prepared to raise the spectator limit to 100. For some, this wasn’t high enough. Tim Boyce, head coach and director for the Halifax Macs of the Nova Scotia U18 Hockey League, was upset by the increase, saying  the numbers just don’t make sense.

Between November  1st and November 6th, the crowd limit at Bedford’s BMO Centre Rink D, St. Margaret’s Centre Fountain Arena, The Zatzman Sportsplex, and the Halifax Forum arena jumped from 50 to 100 and then to 200 as arena operators and the HRM moved to respond to the demand for higher spectator capacity. The 200 person capacity cap seemed to please most previous dissenters: Boyce commented on the second increase, saying “200 is more than enough for us.”

Making the Most of it

Hockey Nova Scotia released its plan regarding protocols for hockey organizations in June, but decisions regarding spectator capacity are up to the arenas which are either privately owned or managed by HRM. “It’s going to look different at each facility,” said Amy Walsh, executive director of Hockey Nova Scotia. “There are different sizes, there are different restrictions and they (the facilities and staff) are trying to do their best.”

Some rinks will be keeping smaller capacity limits, including the LeBrun Arena in Bedford, the Sackville Sports Stadium, and Spryfield Arena which will remain at a 50 person maximum. HRM spokesperson Maggie-Jane Spray said that municipality-owned arenas will be maintaining spectator restrictions according to the capabilities of each facility to ensure physical distancing requirements. “Staff is continuously reviewing requirements and capabilities. So there may be a point in the future that access to facilities will be adjusted,” Spray said. “However, given the high demand for access to ice, these measures are necessary to align with current public health protocols.”

A Few Bad Apples

Part of the argument for increasing spectator capacity is that the overall capacity of the rinks in Halifax can accommodate easily for physical distancing. Michelle Poteri, an administrator for the Centennial Arena, says that it’s not the amount of space that is causing issues, however. The problem is spectators who don’t want to follow the rules.

One Step Back

“They’re still used to the old way of standing together in a group, and that’s not allowed,” Poteri said, referring to fans who don’t maintain physical distancing in the stands. “It’s a full-time job just keeping them on track.” She asserted that, as it is, it is too difficult for staff members to ensure people are behaving in the arena to begin allowing larger numbers of spectators in for games. Physical distancing isn’t the only rule visitors struggle to follow; Poteri said that people forget to wear their masks or even try to bring food and drinks into the dressing rooms.

If public health protocols aren’t being adhered to by spectators, HRM said that restrictions could quickly be re-established. Considering the most recent announcements from the Nova Scotia provincial government about regional closings to help stem the rise in the Halifax area, this could be a serious consideration from HRM soon. For the next two weeks, takeout orders and poker online are what’s in store for Halifax as casinos, in-person dining, recreation centers, libraries, and museums close.

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