Bainbridge Island Aquatic Center reopens with new COVID-19 protocols

Maximum capacity of 50 people including staff will be maintained

As is the case for many businesses and organizations in recent days, adaptation was the name of the game for the Bainbridge Island Aquatic Center, which recently altered its reopening plan to remain in accordance with Governor Jay Inslee’s recent announcement that Kitsap County will remain in Phase 2 of Washington’s Safe Start model.

Permissible activities include independent lap swimming, water jogging and water exercise. Space will be limited due to social distancing guidelines and due to restricted capacity limits, a maximum of 50 people including staff will be maintained.

“There were many, many renderings,” Aquatic Program Administrator Megan Pleli said of the preparation for Monday’s reopening. “We’ve been working on this for months since the closure on how we can do this appropriately and safely and in the best way possible. If we hadn’t figured out a way to do that, I guarantee you we wouldn’t be open right now. There are a lot of people who can only use water as their exercise, so closing it down really affects our community as a whole.”

Last week, staff began a soft opening process for a few of the facility’s structured teams, with the goal being to allow new procedures to be tested in a controlled environment. Guard staff had the opportunity to get back into the water and refine their life-saving skills.

“We’re doing a lot of rear rescues as much as possible instead of face to face rescues,” Pleli said. “We honed the skills that are more appropriate during COVID but we still practice the ones that we need to as well because you never know what a rescue’s going to look like.”

Pleli noted the community feedback about the partial opening has been “positive” so far and folks have been responsible in determining whether they feel safe enough to come to the aquatic center.

“We have people here who are on chemo, we have people here who have significant health issues and they made the choice deliberately to whether or not they felt safe here,” she said. “They feel safer here than at a grocery store. We’re open to feedback from our community members as they come through. We’re still making adjustments as we need. Our staff feels safe here, our community members feel safe here and it’s a personal decision. Nobody’s going to force them to come.”

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the facility had to furlough some staff, reduce hours, and increase prices in efforts to cover basic operating expenses to keep the facility afloat. Pleli did say that most lifeguards are currently back working.

“We have had to adjust our staffing levels,” she added. “At that point, you have to adjust your pricing to keep it open to the community. We had to find ways where we could open it to the community but still be fiscally responsible.”

Looking ahead to Phase 3, Pleli said she expected to “loosen things up a bit,” but also didn’t want to speculate too early with COVID-19 data changing so rapidly.

For reservations, each swim time slot will be 45 minutes with one person per lane or in a designated area of the dive tank. The sauna, steam room and hot tub will remain closed. Register for swim slots online or by phone at 206-842-2302.

When packing your swim bag before you leave, the aquatic center advises visitors to:

• Bring swim gear (goggles, kickboard, pull buoy, water bottle, etc.)

• No equipment will be available outside of swim lessons and water exercise classes

• No extra goggles or equipment will be available

• Bring a towel and clothes to wear over your swimsuit

• Bring a face covering

• Bring a small plastic bag for your face covering

• Put on swimsuits prior to arrival

• No locker rooms or showers available

• Limited restrooms available

Additionally, people must arrive 10 minutes early prior to their time slot to allow for signing in, completing a verbal health screen and having temperature taken. Visitors with a temperature above 100.4 degrees will not be able to enter the aquatic center.

“We’re happy to be open,” Pleli said. “Our guards are happy to be back.”

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