It’s been nearly two months since a Legionnaires’ outbreak was first declared in Orillia, but frustrations for local sports groups are boiling over as one recreational facility remains closed.
On Nov. 7, The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit and the City of Orillia announced that one of the 35 cases of Legionnaires’ disease was linked to the Rotary Place water cooling tower, resulting in the facility being closed.
At the time, the health unit said the outbreak that killed one person no longer posed a risk to the community but that the City was keeping the facility closed until a root cause could be determined.
Two weeks later, sports organizations that rely on the facility for ice time have been scrambling to find new options.
“All our programs have less ice, and we have to travel to other communities for our skaters to skate,” said Tracey Zwiers, Orillia Figure Skating Club head coach. “Like Monday, for example, we only have an hour worth of ice, so we’re rotating skaters.”
The Figure Skating Club has been trying to squeeze time at Brian Orser Arena ahead of provincial qualifiers on Friday.
Zwiers said some of her skaters have suffered because they haven’t been able to practice as much as they usually would.
“It’s been a bit disappointing, but we’re doing the best we can,” she added.
The City held an information session for organizations on Nov. 17 to let them know the status of Rotary Place. Since then, organizations claim it’s been the only contact they’ve received.
“There is very little work being done, very little communication from the city,” said Glen Connor, the ice scheduler for Orillia Minor Hockey Association. “That’s unfortunate because, at the end of the day, it’s the kids that pay.”
Connor said he’s already had to cancel numerous games and is trying to find alternatives for ice time, such as using an arena on the Chippewas of Rama First Nation.
“All the groups are losing out on what is a proud centre,” said Mike Borrelli, U18 Minor Hockey League coach. “it’s a real shame that we haven’t gotten updates from the city.”
Borrelli said his team has only played two games this year due to the lack of ice available in the city.
“We just haven’t played enough,” he added. “It’s why we didn’t do very well at a recent qualifier when we probably were one of the favourites going in.”
The City declined to speak with CTV News when we reached out for comment.
A statement from the city said it intends to have an update back to council on Dec. 7, but a special meeting could be called sooner should there be new developments.
As of now, Rotary Place remains the only facility closed linked to the Legionnaires’ outbreak.
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